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Can a Sentence Begin with 'And' or 'But'?


Can a Sentence Begin with 'And' or 'But'?
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This week on Ask a Teacher we answer a question from Yiğitcan.

Question:

Yiğitcan asks if it is correct to begin a sentence with conjunctions such as and, but and or. Their grammar book, this person adds, says no.

Answer:

It is completely acceptable to begin a sentence with the words and, but, and or. Conjunction words like these join together sentences, clauses, or phrases.

Sometimes starting a sentence with a conjunction makes your writing sound better. It can keep your thoughts clearly separate. And it can add importance to a thought, like in this example:

Stella is my sister and my best friend. But she makes a great business partner, too!​

Other times, it might be better to use a different word, such as, however. The word “however” sounds a bit more formal and serious than “but.” The right word choice depends on the kind of writing you are doing.

Let's look at another example. This one is from a recent Words and Their Stories article on the Learning English website. Listen for the two sentences that begin with a conjunction.

“To make it on Broadway, you have to be very good. But you also have to be tough. Actors usually have many doors closed in their faces before other doors, hopefully, open.

But even if you are hard-working and gifted, you may also need something else to succeed on Broadway – luck!

Yiğitcan’s question is not surprising. Many people are taught to avoid using conjunction words at the start of sentences. In fact, experts at Merriam-Webster.com write: "Everybody agrees that it’s all right to begin a sentence with and, and nearly everybody admits to having been taught at some past time that the practice was wrong."

And that is Ask a Teacher.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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Words in This Story

conjunction grammar noun : a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words​

formal – adj. suitable for a proper occasion

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