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GRAMMAEROBICS™: Using Conjunctions to Begin Sentences

May 7, 2014

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As with most questions concerning syntax, or the way a sentence is structured, the safest and most reliable answer is, “It depends.”

Here are some examples when it’s not OK:

  • But what about the cost?
  • And it’s raining outside.
  • Or I’m sadly mistaken.
  • Because I hit the tree.
  • Although most people don’t realize it.
  • However you look at it.

Take out the first word—the conjunction—in each of the examples and you’ll notice that each example is now a sentence capable of standing alone, in other words, an independent clause. When you add the conjunction, however, it turns each into a dependent clause, incapable of standing alone as a sentence, despite the fact that each has a noun and a verb, the essential elements of a complete sentence. (A clause contains both a noun and a verb, otherwise it’s a phrase.)

WAKE UP!

OK. Now, the first three can stand alone if they’re preceded by a “set-up” sentence and continue the thought. (This style is for dramatic emphasis, and I don’t recommend it in everyday business writing. Wait until you’re writing advertising copy.)

She wants me to buy a new car. But what about the cost?
I left my umbrella in the elevator.  And it’s raining outside.
I believe this will be our best year ever. Or I’m sadly mistaken.

The next three can work if you connect them to complete stand-alone sentences (or independent clauses—remember?).

Because I hit the tree, I can’t drive my car.
Although most people don’t realize it, Bernice can speak a Bantu dialect.
However you look at it, grammar is a sheer hoot!

So there you have it. Yes, under certain circumstances it’s OK to begin sentences with conjunctions. In fact, I began this article with one. Thanks for asking!

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