Can “Because” Start a Sentence?

Summary

It’s fine to start a sentence with because (or any other conjunction) in both formal and informal writing.

Examples
  • Because this form has an upload limit, I have not attached a copy of my thesis to the application.
  • Because Farley missed the bus, he missed the train as well.

Just remember to complete the sentence by adding a main clause.

Example
  • Incorrect: Because this paper has not yet been peer-reviewed but still been published.
    Correct: Because this paper has not yet been peer-reviewed but still been published, the results should be interpreted with caution.

In speech and informal writing, incomplete sentences or fragments are acceptable if context makes the meaning clear.

Example
  • “Why did the cat cross the road?”
    Because the chicken was on the other side.”

Also make sure it is clear what your pronoun refers to. The pronoun usually appears after the noun in a sentence instead of before it.

Example
  • Incorrect: Because she wants to travel the world, Maya has sold her house and car.
    Correct: Because Maya wants to travel the world, she has sold her house and car.

Because: When to use

Because, which means “for the reason that,” is a subordinating conjunction used to connect two clauses in a sentence.

Example
  • Farley had to buy an umbrella because it was raining.
    The two clauses (“Farley had to buy an umbrella” and “it was raining”) are connected by because.

As a subordinating conjunction, because introduces a subordinate clause and makes it dependent on the main clause for complete meaning.

Example
  • Because it was a fine evening, we took a walk under the stars.
    subordinate clause = “because it was a fine evening”; main clause = “we took a walk under the stars”

By itself, a subordinate clause does not convey complete meaning. If someone said to you “Because it was a fine evening,” you would ask “So what?” The main clause (“we took a walk under the stars”) completes the thought and therefore the sentence.

Because at start of sentence

It is grammatically fine to start a sentence with because. Starting a sentence with a subordinate clause, such as one introduced by because, helps place emphasis or end focus on the main clause. Leading with because also indicates to the reader that an explanation is forthcoming.

Examples
  • Because Maya loves pasta, she lives in Campania.
    Immediately clear that an explanation is being provided and a reason is being given. Also places end focus in the sentence on the main clause (“she lives in Campania”).
  • Because this clinical trial carries significant risk, we will be our own test subjects.
  • Because of the lockdown, all the flights are cancelled.
  • Because of you, I am in trouble.

The positioning of clauses in a sentence affects emphasis. When a main clause needs to be emphasized, it appears at the end of the sentence, after the subordinate clause.

Example
  • Lulu plans to throw a party because she bought extra pizza sauce.
    or
    Because Lulu bought extra pizza sauce, she plans to throw a party.
    emphasis on the main clause (“she plans to throw a party”)

When the subordinate clause appears first, the sentence starts with a conjunction like because. This is acceptable both grammatically and stylistically. In fact, you can start a sentence with any conjunction in English.

Examples
  • We stayed in because it was raining.
    or
    Because it was raining, we stayed in.
  • Rita loves to fly, although she is afraid of heights.
    or
    Although Rita is afraid of heights, she loves to fly.
  • We were able to jump a little higher since we were on the Moon.
    or
    Since we were on the Moon, we were able to jump a little higher.

Just watch out for two common errors that often appear in sentences starting with because:

  1. Fragments or incomplete sentences
  2. Anticipatory references with unclear pronoun usage

Completing the sentence

When you start a sentence with because, make sure to complete it. The conjunction because introduces a subordinate clause, which by itself does not convey complete meaning. If you forget to add a main clause, what you have is a sentence fragment rather than a complete sentence.

Example
  • Incorrect: Because it was a cloudy day.
    Because it was a cloudy day, so what? Complete the sentence with a main clause.
    Correct: Because it was a cloudy day, Tumkin carried an umbrella with him to the park.

Longer fragments that start with because can be particularly tricky, fooling you into believing you’re writing a complete sentence. Always remember to complete the thought by adding a main clause.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Because we found at the last minute that the weather bureau had forecast a hurricane.
    Correct: Because we found out at the last minute that the weather bureau had forecast a hurricane, we had to cancel our trip.
  • Incorrect: Because the file was large.
    Correct: Because the file was large, the upload failed.
Tip

When you start a sentence with because, check whether the reader will be left asking, “So what?” If yes, you need to add a main clause.

Example
  • Because we have this head of cabbage and I know we have some leftover pasta.
    So what?
    Because we have this head of cabbage and some leftover pasta, we can make soup.

In formal writing as well, you can start a sentence with because (or any other conjunction), as long as you remember to complete the sentence by adding a main clause.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Because we forgot to refresh the medium and the bacteria died.
    no main clause, i.e., an incomplete sentence or a fragment
    Correct: Because we forgot to refresh the medium, the bacteria died.
    Correct: Because we forgot to refresh the medium and the bacteria died, our research remains incomplete.
  • Incorrect: Because we forgot to set up the sensors and were unable to collect any data.
    Correct: Because we forgot to set up the sensors, we were unable to collect any data.
  • Incorrect: Because our research is now complete to publish a paper.
    Correct:Because our research is now complete, we can publish a paper.
  • Incorrect:Because this company’s CEO has resigned.
    Correct: Because this company’s CEO has resigned, its share price has fallen.
Caution

Write complete sentences rather than fragments in formal writing (e.g., in a thesis or a cover letter).

Example
  • Incorrect: Because I have been managing teleportation services on Mars for seven years.
    Correct: Because I have been managing teleportation services on Mars for seven years, I have the experience required to serve your customers on Duranda.
    In formal writing, make sure a sentence that starts with because has a main clause.

Avoiding anticipatory reference

When a sentence starts with because, it can contain a pronoun whose reference is unclear at first use. If a pronoun appears before the noun it refers to, it can be confusing for readers and ruin the flow of your text.

Example
  • Poor: Because she was tired, Maya went to bed without brushing her teeth.
    “She” refers to Maya, but this is not clear until we read the second clause.
    Better: Because Maya was tired, she went to bed without brushing her teeth.

But you don’t have to avoid using because at the start of a sentence: simply make sure it is clear what your pronoun refers to.

Example
  • Incorrect: Nesbit and Tumkin are making a new video game. Because he likes to travel, Tumkin wants to make a game in which you fight demons in cities around the world.
    Because who likes to travel?
    Correct: Nesbit and Tumkin are making a new video game. Because Tumkin likes to travel, he wants to make a game in which you fight demons in cities around the world.

Here are some more examples of anticipatory reference, where clarity can be improved by making the pronoun appear after instead of before its antecedent (the noun it refers to).

Examples
  • Incorrect: Because she loves to fly, Rita is saving up to buy a plane.
    Correct: Because Rita loves to fly, she is saving up to buy a plane.
  • Incorrect: Because they are easy to make, we often insert graphs in our presentations.
    Correct: Because graphs are easy to make, we often insert them in our presentations.

In speech and informal usage

In speech, the meaning of a statement is often clear without the main clause being explicitly stated. Nobody speaks in complete sentences all the time.

Examples
  • “Why did you cancel your trip?”
    Because of the hurricane.”
  • “Why have you withdrawn your application?
    Because I have accepted another offer.”
  • “Why are you so sleepy?”
    Because I woke up today at 4 a.m.”

Answering every question with a complete sentence can sound stuffy and pompous in everyday speech and informal writing.

Fragments are also common in creative writing, which naturally has a more conversational and narrative tone.

Examples
  • He could teach any of us only one thing, and that one thing was flight. Because there was no freedom here.
    Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying (1993)
  • After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.
    Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2004)
  • Because the truth is, we never know for sure about ourselves.
    Richard Russo, Straight Man (1997)

“Because . . .” fragments are also seen in popular culture and on social media, where they can be used to make a point.

Example
  • Because Mondays.”
    Inscribed on a photo of a coffee mug to humorously indicate that coffee is necessary on Mondays.

Such colloquialisms, perfectly acceptable in informal settings, are avoided in formal writing. Do not write incomplete sentence in documents such as cover letters, academic theses, or business reports.

Anticipatory reference (where the pronoun appears before its antecedent) is also acceptable in informal and creative writing, where it can add an element of surprise, drama, or humor to a sentence.

Example
  • Because it tastes best cold, Maya likes to eat pizza straight out of the fridge.

In academic and other formal writing, where clarity is important, anticipatory reference is avoided.

Examples from literature

Here are some quotes from literature with sentences starting with because.

Examples
  • Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over? Because, if it is to spite her, I should think – but you know best – that might be better and more independently done by caring nothing for her words.
    Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1860)
  • Because the world is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and pick the flowers that grow in the midst of hell.
    Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund (1930)
  • Because when all people had was practically nothing, then anything could be almost anything.
    Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad (1991)
  • Because if she let go of her grief even for a minute it would only hit her harder when she bumped into it again.
    Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” Hateship, Friendship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage (2001)
  • Because while you don’t have a choice about what you are, you have a choice about what you show.
    Naomi Alderman, Disobedience (2006)

Quick Quiz

Which is/are grammatically correct?
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Which is a complete sentence?
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Which is grammatically correct?
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Is it OK to start a sentence with because in formal writing?
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Which is better style in formal usage?
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Which is more suitable for a job application?
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Did You Know?

A split infinitive isn’t nearly as painful as it sounds.
Know more:Is It OK to Split an Infinitive?