Myth Buster: Never Start a Sentence with Because



This grammar myth is, thankfully, less pervasive than some others I’ve addressed. Still, I regularly encounter folks who believe there is a general prohibition against starting a sentence with the word because. Others, who’ve never heard of this dubious rule, scratch their heads when they hear it because it seems so arbitrary.

It’s not, however. There is a reasonable explanation for the idea that a sentence beginning with because is anathema.

How a Grammar Myth Is Born

It’s a tale of laziness:

Students in Mrs. Malaise’s English class are asked to read a short story in their textbooks and answer the questions that follow. When they turn in their answers the next day, Mrs. Malaise is dismayed at the abundance of sentence fragments. They all look something like this:

Question: In Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” why did the man die?

Student’s Answer: Because he didn’t respect the power of nature.

That answer is indeed a sentence fragment.

The teacher discovers that these fragments always follow why? questions and begin with the word, because. So, she forbids students to begin their answers with that word. Miraculously, the problem is solved:

New student answer: He doesn’t respect the power of nature.

Even better student answer: The man dies because he doesn’t respect the power of nature. 

And thus a grammar myth is born. Over time, this useful little trick takes on the power of universal grammatical truth. Perhaps it’s the fault of overly conscientious students who misunderstand the reason for this limited “rule.” Or maybe teachers just don’t take the time to explain. Instead of saying, “To avoid sentence fragments when answering why? questions, a little trick is to never start the sentence with the word because,” they simply say, “Don’t start sentences with because.”

Of course some of the diligent students of Mrs. Malaise go on to become teachers themselves, and since few of us ever question the rules we learned in middle school, this mythical rule spreads like an urban legend.

Why It’s Not a Rule (The Grammary Part)

Let’s be clear. The problem with the sentence Because he did not respect the power of nature isn’t that it begins with because. The problem is that it is a sentence fragment.

A group of words is a complete sentence only if: 1) it contains a subject, 2) it contains a predicate, and 3) it expresses a complete thought. This sentence fails test number three. It has a subject (he) and a predicate (did respect), but it expresses only a partial thought. Something is needed to complete it.

Incomplete thoughts occur when a writer tries to use a subordinate clause (dependent clause) as a stand-alone sentence. That’s a no-no. You can only do that with independent clauses, because they are all independent and stuff. The most common way to make a clause subordinate is to add a subordinating conjunction to it (makes sense, right?). Because is a subordinating conjunction, as is when, if, and while.

A subordinate clause is always part of a complex sentence. It requires an independent clause to complete its thought.

Incomplete: Because I don’t like grease.

Complete: Because I don’t like grease, I avoid fast food places.

Incomplete: When Weston acts goofy.

Complete: When Weston acts goofy, I flick him on the ear.

The added, italicized part of these sample sentences are independent clauses. Notice that each could stand alone as a sentence.

The problem students have with answering why? questions is not that they start with because, but that they don’t complete the thought. And they don’t complete the thought because they are answering a question, and it seems redundant to repeat information already contained in the sentence. Teachers should understand that, and take the time to explain that avoiding incomplete sentences requires them to repeat information from the question.

In normal conversation, sentence fragments are common and accepted:

Bob: Why are you such a doofus?

Ed: Because you are my role model. 

Could you imagine Ed responding, “I am such a doofus because you are my role model”?

But we are teaching writing, not casual speaking, and if teachers care about students avoiding fragments, they should teach what a fragment is and how to fix it, rather than just relying on a made-up rule about because.

The Real Solution

I have a suggestion for teachers. Instead of telling kids not to start sentences with because, tell them to finish their thoughts. It would be even better to give an extensive grammar/usage lesson, like mine above, but I understand that there is not always time for that. I think a better shortcut is to insist that students finish their thoughts.

Textbook: Why did the man die?

Student: Because he didn’t respect the power of nature.

Teacher: Finish the thought: Because he didn’t respect the power of nature…what?

Student: Because he didn’t respect the power of nature, the man died.

Teacher: Bravo! You may remove the dunce cap.

Notice that a complex sentence is correct regardless of where the subordinate clause is placed. It’s equally correct, whether it comes before or after the independent clause:

Correct: The man died because he didn’t respect the power of nature.

Correct: Because he didn’t respect the power of nature, the man died.

Teachers should point that out.


Isn’t it good to know that there is one less grammar rule to worry about? Spread the word to textbook-reading, comprehension-question-answering students everywhere: Start all the sentences you want with because. Just finish your thought.


Looking for help with writing? offers a variety of classes for students in grades 5-12. We work with homeschoolers and regular school kids looking for supplementary help in this vital area. Visit us today at for more information.


About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Hair loss supplements
    Hair loss supplements03-24-2017

    More about the author Why does Firefox not work since I downloaded yahoo instant messenger?

  2. coupons com
    coupons com03-23-2017

    You made some good points there. I looked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

  3. whatsapp status in english
    whatsapp status in english03-23-2017

    Really enjoyed this blog article.Really thank you! Much obliged.

  4. nebraska insurance premium finance
    nebraska insurance premium finance03-22-2017

    Very good info. Lucky me I found your website by accident (stumbleupon). I ave bookmarked it for later!

  5. Duvvada Jagannadham songs
    Duvvada Jagannadham songs03-22-2017

    Im obliged for the article post.Thanks Again. Fantastic.

  6. adam and eve sex toys
    adam and eve sex toys03-21-2017

    Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine several unrelated information, nonetheless genuinely really worth taking a look, whoa did a single learn about Mid East has got far more problerms too

  7. swan wand
    swan wand03-21-2017

    The data talked about inside the post are several of the very best accessible

  8. Read Full Article
    Read Full Article03-21-2017

    I really liked your blog post.Really thank you! Great.

  9. Grady

    I have been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.

    It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web
    will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  10. Stroker Kit
    Stroker Kit03-20-2017

    very couple of internet sites that transpire to become detailed below, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well really worth checking out

  11. Political News
    Political News03-20-2017

    I truly appreciate this article.Thanks Again. Will read on

  12. Nebraska

    Great article. Thank you for your time in helping me understand on the matter.


    I love each David Webb piece.

  14. joma jewellery rose gold
    joma jewellery rose gold03-19-2017

    Second, diligently study the lessons and make time to follow designing or jewelry


    Great site. Thank you for your time in helping me understand on the matter.

  16. restaurants oceanside
    restaurants oceanside03-19-2017

    CA. Even though it gets warm through the summertime to get a small number of times,
    it’s rarely humid.

  17. P3O

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with with your blog.

  18. Jenifer

    Hi there, all the time i used to check blog posts here early in the daylight,
    since i like to learn more and more.

  19. best book light
    best book light03-17-2017

    You completed certain good points there. I did a search on the theme and found most folks will go along with with your blog.

  20. celulares em promocao
    celulares em promocao03-17-2017

    I truly appreciate this blog article. Will read on

  21. Gadsden

    Thanks a lot for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

  22. javonline18

    Last week I dropped by this internet site and as usual wonderful content and suggestions. Enjoy the lay out and color scheme

  23. tsx close time
    tsx close time03-16-2017

    Usually it as a result of the fire communicated in the post I

  24. แม่บ้าน

    I think this is a real great blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on

  25. nanny bangkok
    nanny bangkok03-16-2017

    This is one awesome article post.Really thank you!

  26. aesthetic gym apparel
    aesthetic gym apparel03-16-2017

    In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own site now

  27. Earn money
    Earn money03-16-2017

    Inspiring story there. What happened after? Thanks!

  28. Augusto de Arruda Botelho
    Augusto de Arruda Botelho03-16-2017

    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was
    a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!

    However, how can we communicate?

  29. play online casino
    play online casino03-16-2017

    Wohh exactly what I was looking for, thank you for posting.

  30. design

    you will have an awesome blog here! would you prefer to make some invite posts on my blog?

  31. Google

    Very handful of internet websites that transpire to be in depth below, from our point of view are undoubtedly well really worth checking out.

  32. WordPress .Com to .org
    WordPress .Com to .org03-16-2017

    Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write on my website something like that. Can I implement a portion of your post to my site?

  33. best book light
    best book light03-16-2017

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Many thanks for supplying these details.

  34. Mortgage Lender
    Mortgage Lender03-16-2017

    Enjoyed every bit of your article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

  35. nursing jobs
    nursing jobs03-16-2017

    Im obliged for the article post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

  36. male enhancer
    male enhancer03-15-2017

    wow, awesome blog post.Really thank you!

  37. Shea

    Outstanding post, I conceive people should acquire a lot from this weblog its real user friendly. So much fantastic information on here .


    This is one awesome article.Thanks Again. Fantastic.

  39. jetzt ohne rezept
    jetzt ohne rezept03-15-2017

    Thanks a lot for the blog article.Really thank you! Awesome.

  40. mrcrayfish furniture mod
    mrcrayfish furniture mod03-13-2017

    Muchos Gracias for your blog.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  41. Melbourne investors
    Melbourne investors03-13-2017

    This awesome blog is really interesting as well as informative. I have picked up many interesting stuff out of this amazing blog. I ad love to return again soon. Thanks!

  42. multi domain hosting
    multi domain hosting03-13-2017

    Just wanna say that this is very useful , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

  43. auto glass repair Murrieta
    auto glass repair Murrieta03-13-2017

    Wow, great post.Really thank you! Awesome.

  44. Hotel booking
    Hotel booking03-12-2017

    Thorn of Girl Excellent information and facts could be identified on this web blog.

  45. hibiscus tea reviews
    hibiscus tea reviews03-12-2017

    You need to participate in a contest for probably the greatest blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

  46. tea reviews
    tea reviews03-11-2017

    Very good article. I am experiencing some of these issues as well..

  47. Engineering

    Really appreciate you sharing this blog.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on

  48. Entertainment gossip news
    Entertainment gossip news03-10-2017

    Spot on with this write-up, I really assume this website needs far more consideration. I?ll probably be again to read rather more, thanks for that info.

  49. carshield BBB
    carshield BBB03-10-2017

    Hey, thanks for the blog article.Really thank you!

  50. content marketing
    content marketing03-10-2017

    I value the blog post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

  51. bo jackson sneakers
    bo jackson sneakers03-10-2017

    Really appreciate you sharing this article.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  52. free global shipping
    free global shipping03-10-2017

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you ave got the opportunity, Guess I all just book mark this web site.

  53. Jennalee

    Im thankful for the article.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  54. bad hard drive south jordan
    bad hard drive south jordan03-10-2017

    This site certainly has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn at know who to ask.

  55. Watching the Super Bowl
    Watching the Super Bowl03-10-2017

    Looking forward to reading more. Great blog.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  56. read more her
    read more her03-10-2017

    Very informative blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

  57. EZ Battery Reconditioning Review
    EZ Battery Reconditioning Review03-08-2017

    You have made some really good points there. I checked on the internet for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

  58. Oud oil supplier
    Oud oil supplier03-08-2017

    It as hard to come by educated people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

  59. auto insurance quotes minnesota
    auto insurance quotes minnesota03-08-2017

    Major thanks for the article. Will read on

  60. SEO company and services consultant Belleterre
    SEO company and services consultant Belleterre03-08-2017

    Really appreciate you sharing this blog.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…

  61. travel food review in Italy
    travel food review in Italy03-08-2017

    Im no expert, but I think you just crafted a very good point point. You definitely understand what youre talking about, and I can truly get behind that. Thanks for being so upfront and so truthful.

  62. pipe manufacturers in chennai tamilnadu india
    pipe manufacturers in chennai tamilnadu india03-08-2017

    Enjoyed every bit of your post.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  63. Android News
    Android News03-08-2017

    Looking forward to reading more. Great article.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

  64. grossite surprise enfant
    grossite surprise enfant03-07-2017

    I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are incredible! Thanks!

  65. razor,straight razor
    razor,straight razor03-07-2017

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post plus the rest of the site is very good.

  66. wedding cakes
    wedding cakes03-07-2017

    Thanks again for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

  67. ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
    ICC Cricket World Cup 201903-07-2017

    There is definately a lot to find out about this issue. I like all of the points you have made.

  68. ethnic

    Thanks for the article post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

  69. tsx 60 companies
    tsx 60 companies03-07-2017

    Very good article post.Really thank you! Will read on

  70. tsx best stocks
    tsx best stocks03-07-2017

    It as exhausting to find educated people on this topic, but you sound like you understand what you are talking about! Thanks

  71. Ian Flanigan
    Ian Flanigan03-06-2017

    Very nice info and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is truly the best place to ask but do you folks have any ideea where to hire some professional writers? Thanks

  72. check these guys out
    check these guys out03-06-2017

    Thank you for your blog post.Really thank you! Want more.

  73. Replacement Wallside Windows
    Replacement Wallside Windows03-06-2017

    Major thanks for the article.Much thanks again. Want more.

  74. venue finder
    venue finder03-06-2017

    Looking forward to reading more. Great blog article. Awesome.

  75. this sheat
    this sheat03-05-2017

    kKg9Z5 Im thankful for the blog article. Keep writing.

  76. Matthias Wille
    Matthias Wille03-11-2014

    Hi Brian,

    I stumbled across your posting, whilst searching for an answer as to why my son (7) got corrected for answering a why sentence with a because fragment.

    Whilst I appreciate your explanation, I feel somewhat unsatisfied. You recommend that teachers should correct students by saying “Finish the thought: Because he didn’t respect the power of nature…what?”

    Frankly speaking, I believe the thought of every child and adult alike actually ends exactly with this fragment and rightly so. The human brain is very efficient in recognising redundancies in information.

    So the way I explained it to my son is not by telling him to “finish the thought”, but by saying that “correct writing” allows each sentence to be taken out of context and to still make sense. Good writing as opposed to “casual writing”, which is a style used in probably 99% of the worlds written communication (email); where a sentence fragment does not pose a problem.

    I’m by the way not a native English speaker.


    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko03-12-2014

      You make a good point, Matthias. I have found my way of explaining the issue to be effective, but the approach you took with your son is excellent too. Perhaps it is a better way of explaining it. Thanks for sharing it.

      I agree, by the way, that it’s common in spoken English and in informal contexts like email and social media to speak in fragments, and because fragments are particularly natural in those contexts. I have no problem with that, and though I hadn’t thought about it before, I think I agree with you about how our brains efficiently process such information. Thank you for your insightful comment. It’s caused me to rethink my approach to this topic.

      And, I’m sure you’ve been told, but your grasp of written English seems well ahead of most native speakers. :)

  77. John

    Wow! Thanks for the explanation. I have been carrying around the stigma of “never use the word because” for my whole life. I was told long ago that it is “lazy,” and to use another expression instead. I have struggled to exclude this word from my writing for years. Now I see where this problem arose and that “because” is not a bad word to use in writing. I suppose that it can be over used, but that’s another story. Thanks again.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-14-2014

      “Because” is lazy? I just don’t understand teachers sometimes. There’s no such thing as an intrinsically bad word. It’s all about context. Any word can be overused and we should learn what words we tend to use too often, but teaching someone to avoid “because” because it’s “lazy” is irresponsible. I’m glad you ended up here, John!

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!