Just Because…

Blackmatta asked for a discussion of the word “because”. Well, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, so here it is, BM!

Because as a Conjunction

Let’s begin by reviewing some basics.

  • A conjunction is a word that joins two things.
  • A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb.
  • When one sentence gives a cause or reason, and the next sentence gives the effect or result (of that cause or reason), these two sentences are related in what we callacause-and-effectrelationship.

Now we are ready to describe “because” as follows:

  • “Because” is a conjunction that joins two clauses in a cause-and-effect relationship.
  • The clause beginning with “because” is the “cause” clause, and the other clause is the “effect” clause.

The “because” clause (aka “cause” clause) may be at the beginning or end of the sentence with no change in meaning.

Here are some examples of “because” used at the beginning of a sentence.

  1. Because he was tired, he immediately went to sleep after coming home.
  2. Because she was pretty, many boys wanted to date her.
  3. Because he was famous, the reporters gathered around him to ask questions.
  4. Because Blackmatta asked for this lesson, Teacher Lee created it.

Using Example #1 above, I can use the effect clause to ask a question in a couple of different ways:

  • Why did he go to sleep immediately after coming home?
  • What is the reason that he went to sleep immediately after coming home?

Using Example #1 above, I can answer these questions using the cause clause in several ways:

  • Because he was tired. (incomplete sentence but commonly used informal answer)
  • He was tired.
  • He was tired. That’s why.
  • The reason (that) he went to bed immediately after coming home was that he was tired. (noun clause used as “direct object” or predicate; reason = he was tired)

Now let’s rewrite the 4 examples above with the because clause at the end of the sentence:

  1. He immediately went to sleep after coming home because he was tired.
  2. Many boys wanted to date her because she was pretty.
  3. The reporters gathered around him to ask questions because he was famous.
  4. Teacher Lee created it because Blackmatta asked for this lesson.

Note that Example #4 needs to be revised because “it” is used before “lesson”. These need to be switched (swapped) for clarity:

4. Teacher Lee created this lessonbecause Blackmatta asked for it.

Just Because

What if I do something for no particular reason (I just felt like doing it on an impulse), and someone asks me why I did it? => “Why did you do that?”

In this case, we may answer with any of the following:

  • “Just because. “
  • “I did it just because.”
  • “No reason.”

Common Punctuation Error Made by Students

Note that, when because is used at the end of the sentence in a true cause-and-effect relationship, there is NO COMMA before “because”.

There may be some cases where a “because” clause is used at the end of a sentence but it is NOT a true cause-and-effect relationship for the preceding clause. In this case, to show this fact, a COMMA must be used. Here are some examples of “false” cause-and-effect relationships.

  1. I know President Obama is visiting my city, because my daughter told me so.
  2. I know she is pregnant, because her boyfriend told me last month.

Why are the commas above needed? To show that these “because” clauses are NOT true cause-and-effect relationships. Answer these questions:

  1. Why is President Obama visiting my city?Oh, he is visiting because my daughter told me he was visiting.

    Is this the real reason he is visiting? No. He is visiting for some other reason.
    This because clause is answering the question: How (or why) do I knowhe is visiting?

  2. Why is she pregnant?Oh, she become pregnant because her boyfriend spoke to me last month.

    Is this the real reason she is pregnant? No. She is pregnant for, um, other reasons. This because clause is answering the question: How (or why) do I knowshe is pregnant?

This confusion is because there are TWO clauses in front of the “because” clause and the “because” clause goes with the first of those two clauses instead of the second of those two clauses:

  • I know (because my daughter told me so).
  • President Obama is visiting my city.
  • I know (because her boyfriend told me last month).
  • She is pregnant.

“Because of” Used as a Preposition

“Because of” is a two-word preposition. A preposition must be followed by a noun or pronoun. Here are some examples of the usage of this preposition:

  1. Because of that, she decided not to go.
  2. Because of illness, she stayed home and didn’t go to school today.
  3. Because of an accident on the highway, there was a traffic jam.

These prepositional phrases may also be placed at the beginning or end of a sentence.

  1. She decided not to go because of that.
  2. She stayed home and didn’t go to school today because of illness.
  3. There was a traffic jam because of an accident on the highway.

Note that “because of” can be replaced with “due to” with no change in meaning.

Use of a Noun Clause with “Because of”

It is possible to use a noun clause as the “noun” of a “because of” preposition, but an intermediate phrase(“the fact that”) must be inserted to make this happen. Let’s revisit the very first examples in this lesson and make this modification:

  1. Because of the fact that he was tired, he immediately went to sleep after coming home.
  2. Because ofthe fact thatshe was pretty, many boys wanted to date her.
  3. Because ofthe fact thathe was famous, the reporters gathered around him to ask questions.
  4. Because ofthe fact thatBlackmatta asked for this lesson, Teacher Lee created it.

I mention this because you may hear people say this sometimes. It is grammatically correct and acceptable, but because it adds four more words than necessary (of the fact that), I would suggest avoiding this verbose phrasing. (Please study how this paragraph has just used “because” twice!)

Self-Assessment or What Have You Learned?

Exercise #1

In the following sentences, place square brackets [ ] around the “cause” clause.
Place braces { } around the “effect” clause. The first sentence has been done for you as an example.

  1. {Blackmatta asked for this lesson} [because she wanted to learn more].
  2. Because the coffee was extremely hot, she scalded her lips when she drank it.
  3. Teacher Lee created this lesson because a student asked for it.
  4. Due to the fact that the Chairman was her father, she was selected to lead the project.

Exercise #2

Rewrite these sentences to place the “because” clause at the end of the sentence.

  1. Because he was in a hurry, he took a fast train.
  2. Because her dress was very short, she was able to entrance all the boys.
  3. Because the ice was very cold, I could see frost rising from it.
  4. Because they came late, we missed the start of the movie.

Exercise #3

Which of these sentences is punctuated incorrectly?

  1. That coffee is hot because I just burned my lips on it!
  2. That coffee is very hot because it was heated to the boiling point.
  3. That coffee is hot, because Sue told me she just burned her lips on it.

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