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English Grammar And Writing

Start a Sentence With But or And

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You might have heard that you can't start a sentence with 'but' or 'and.' But both can be used at the beginning of a sentence, you just need to know how to do it. Read on to learn more.

Can I Do That?

Almost all modern grammar guides agree that it is OK to start a sentence with 'and' or 'but.' But most of us have been taught at some point that this is wrong. So where does this grammar superstition come from, and how can we use 'and' or 'but' at the beginning of a sentence?

This superstition probably comes from the fact that English teachers often tell students not to overuse 'and' or 'but' at the beginning of a sentence because it can get repetitive and, when used often, lead to awkward, disjointed sentences. But along the way, many people took this advice to mean they should never do it.

Conjunction Junction

Conjunctions are a group of words that tie together other words and parts of sentences. Conjunctions are divided into groups, which include coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. 'And' and 'but' are types of coordinating conjunctions. You can think of these as words that 'coordinate' sentences, or bring sentences together.

The most common reason people give for not using 'and' or 'but' to start a sentence is that starting a sentence with a conjunction is thought to make the sentence incomplete, or no longer a whole sentence. But that's only true of subordinating conjunctions, like 'although' or 'because,' which make the words that come after it unable to stand alone as a complete sentence. You can remember this by remembering that the 'subordinate' means 'lower in rank,' so using a subordinating conjunction turns the sentence to one that is lower in rank, or no longer a sentence of the same quality. Coordinating conjunctions, like 'and' and 'but,' don't do this.

Coordinating conjunctions are usually memorized using the acronym FANBOYS:

  • for
  • and
  • nor
  • but
  • or
  • yet
  • so

All of these coordinating conjunctions are perfectly fine at the beginning of a sentence.

Why Use a Coordinating Conjunction?

Now that we know it is OK to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, the question becomes why. You often see coordinating conjunctions in the middle of a sentence joining two independent clauses, or clauses that can stand on their own as a sentence:

  • Jill was out of money, but Jan saved the day and loaned her some.
  • John was late for school, and he forgot his homework.

These are both perfectly fine, grammatically correct sentences. But what if we turned that comma into a period, making each example into two sentences?

  • Jill was out of money. But Jan saved the day and loaned her some.
  • John was late for school. And he forgot his homework.

As we just learned, this is also grammatically correct. So which one to use? This is where the grammar rules stop and it comes down to style. In this case, the full stop of the period adds a little suspense, which isn't there when the whole thing is expressed as one sentence.

  Umbreen Aleem       Sunday, 29 Dec 2019       151 Views

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