Can you start a sentence with a conjunction?

“You must not start a sentence with a conjunction.” That has been the mantra of many an exasperated English teacher, especially since the oiks started getting state education. Any pupil brave, daft or naive enough to raise a hand and ask “Why?” would receive some explanation along the lines of “Because it is said.”

So now we’re all grown up, we’ll ask again – why? The honest answer is that there is no reason. It’s just an arbitrary rule that’s been passed through the ages. But all language is arbitrary, isn’t it? Words and letters are but abstract concepts. Understanding them can only come through the education of rules.

As usual with these issues, the argument is between the way English is used and the way it is “supposed to be”. Sometimes a full stop is required to drive home a sentence or give a meaningful pause. And an afterthought like this one gets more impact when it’s a sentence rather than a conjoined clause. So when someone tells you not to start a sentence with a conjunction, say: “But I’ve already done it.”

What is a conjunction?

A conjunction is a word that joins two clauses, phrases or words together. By this rigid definition, it’s not hard to see why some people think they can’t be used to start a sentence. Some conjunctions are and, but, or, nor, yet, so and for, and our language has evolved enough to accommodate them at various points in a sentence. Just try not to end a sentence with one … unless it’s absolutely necessary.