by Bailey Bischoff
“NEVER use ‘because’ to start a sentence!” is an oft-spoken refrain of middle school English teachers. These well-meaning teachers drill this phrase into children’s heads because they don’t want children to write sentence fragments like this: “I was sad. Because the dog ran away.” The second “sentence” is actually a fragment as the initial “because” makes the phrase a dependent clause, and a dependent clause depends (you can think of it as leaning) on an independent clause for support.
An independent clause is a sentence with both a subject and a verb that can stand on its own. However, dependent clauses cannot stand on their own and need an independent clause to accompany them. In essence, if you start a sentence with a dependent clause (as I have here), make sure a comma and an independent clause follow it. This rule helps explain why it can actually be okay to start a sentence with “because.”
It is grammatically incorrect to write, “I was sad. Because the dog ran away.” However, one can write, “Because the dog ran away, I was sad.”
Because* – Dependent clause – Comma – Independent Clause.
Your sentences can grow from there to include more complex ideas, such as those required in your academic papers: Because the conquistadors colonized Latin America through the use of institutionalized slavery and encomiendas, a hierarchical societal system was put into place, the remains of which can still be seen today.
Because you are no longer in middle school, feel free to use “because” at the beginning of sentences (just as long as you follow it up with a comma and an independent clause).
*If you want to know more about other words like “because,” words that frequently start dependent clauses, do a search for “subordinating conjunctions” and you will find such words as “although, if, when, even though, in order to,” and more. Here’s a link to more information on subordinating conjunctions:
Bailey Bischoff is a sophomore majoring in political science and has just been elected student body president.