Can you start a sentence with and’? Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to do so. And you can also begin sentences with other words that you were told not to. Here is how and why.
Old School English
English literature dating back to the origin of the language, 9th century, features plenty of sentences that start with ‘and’, ‘or’, and ‘also’. And it continues onward from there for the next thousands of years.
As you may have seen, the old Bible translations also begin plenty of sentences with ‘and’ as well as other coordinating conjunctions. Starting a sentence with ‘and’ is not an unfamiliar concept.
The rule of not beginning a sentence with ‘and’ originated in grammar books, your high school English teacher, and nearly everybody else around the turn of the 20th century. It was also not okay to start sentences with other words such as ‘but’, ‘or’, ‘so’, and the list goes on.
This seems like a contradiction to the previous 900 years of using the words freely to start sentences.
It is believed that the education system’s intentions were good. It sought to reduce the number of sentences kids would produce that began with conjunctions to avoid sentence fragments.
Everyone did as they were told for a while, but those educators are long gone now. It is time to free the word ‘and’ from its 20th-century reputation.
Even in the past 100 or so years, the English language and grammatical rules have changed dramatically. Can you imagine Snoop Dogg having a conversation with Edgar Allan Poe? They would communicate, but it would take a little extra effort. And the further back you go and the more English changes, the less recognizable the language becomes.
Let us examine a historical document we have all heard of, the Bible. This is in Old English, written sometime before or around the year 1000:
Drihten me raet, ne byth me nanes godes wan.
And he me geset on swythe good feohland.
And fedde me be waetera stathum.
That is the origin of the language currently in use today. It is hard to believe that the use of ‘and’ to start a sentence remains consistent throughout such a long evolution despite these constant changes.
Those academics almost buried English’s little secret for good. Until rebellious students and writers began to use the word again at the start of sentences, opening an excellent language debate using connectives.
You cannot keep a good ‘and’ down.
Can You Start A Sentence With And—Not Just a Conjunction
Reading this will cause discomfort to some readers. They may not yet be ready for such a radical return to the roots of the language.
And’ has a firm place in its current uses with coordinating conjunctions, joining independent clauses, connecting two sentences, using conjunctive adverbs, and connecting unrelated sentences. It is used widely for many functions and generally follows the same rule: it joins two parts together.
For these reasons, starting a sentence with conjunction may make it seem unnatural. However, it is in the framework of conjunction, but the function of the word slightly changes when used at the start of a sentence. It is the same with the other FANBOYS words as well.
FANBOYS is a mnemonic word for the seven coordinating conjunctions For And Nor But Or Yet So. People have forever been taught never to use some or all of these words to start sentences.
So to put the word ‘and’ back into its lexical standing, the rest of the FANBOYS can come as well. Some are already more accepted than others.
Is So a Conjunction?
S in FANBOYS stands for So; hence so is one of the coordinating conjunctions.
The conjunction “so” connects two independent clauses. In this case, a comma should precede “so.” The clause starting with “so” expresses a result.
For instance, The discussion was exciting and interactive, so the students understood what had been taught.
Thus in a Sentence
The adverb “thus” is synonymous with so, therefore, or hence. Below are sample sentences that used “thus:”
- It is impractical, and thus I advise you to reconsider before beginning.
- Thus, he would create a movement to address the majority’s concern.
- Ariane got deceived many times, thus making her afraid of social interaction.
- Miguel was thus the leading pioneer of the recent theory.
However in the Middle of a Sentence
Below are examples of “however” used in the middle of sentences:
- It might not be easy at the start; however, you will find it easier with more practice.
- We cannot be 100% sure about everything; however, we can give an estimation.
- She is full of wisdom; however, her emotional state has recently been shattered.
- John has never missed watching a single basketball league since 2011; however, he will miss watching the upcoming one due to his accident.
Starting a Sentence with And
When you start a sentence with ‘and’, you still use it to connect a new idea to another present in a second sentence.
Contextually, it is the equivalent of saying ‘also’. Of course, you could begin your sentence with ‘also’, but ‘and’ is more pointed. It creates a more significant emphasis because it is just one powerful syllable.
“My sister lost my dog. And my car keys.”
To write “my sister lost my dog and my car keys” does not carry the same meaning. They use the exact words, but without the stop.
The stop adds the emphasis, and then ‘and’ follows as a matter of fact after, as if stating a heightened, further annoyance in this case. The added meaning is absent when ‘and’ is used as a coordinating conjunction. ‘Also’ can be used alternatively but not pack the same punch.
And the Others
Just as ‘and’ can also add emphasis, it is worth looking momentarily at the other coordinating conjunctions. If you were to use them at the beginnings of sentences, here are some new meanings they may take on:
- For – Implying intent
- Nor – Further negate something, with emphasis
- But – Yet or However
- Or – In other words or an alternate idea
- Yet – In further consideration
- So – To conclude
One can always argue that any of these replacements will be suitable instead of a conjunction, but they can state that their main reason is they are using these words because of their specific meaning.
In this sense, starting a sentence with any of the seven coordinating conjunctions is perfectly acceptable and can at times enhance communication.
Using a Comma
When you start a sentence with ‘and’ continuing an idea from a previous statement, it is unnecessary to use a comma afterward.
For example, “I want to get a pizza. And, some ice cream.” The comma here is superfluous. It adds no value to the sentence other than to disrupt the emphatic ‘and’.
Adversely, they could argue that the comma adds to the emphasis. Since this article is about defying conventions, the writer leaves the decision up to you. The most important thing to remember is that any effect is free for use in writing with intent.
The Other FANBOYS
A comma is not needed when used after any of the FANBOYS words when they begin in a sentence unless the writer has a purpose for doing it.
Avoid Sentence Fragments
Misused ‘and’ at the beginning of a sentence may read like a sentence fragment. That is part of a sentence but not a complete sentence.
When using ‘and’ at the start of a sentence, make sure that it works and does not display like it was incomplete—cut off from the end of the sentence.
Business and Formal Writing
When composing a letter for business or formal writing, the generally accepted rule is to not use ‘and’ at the beginning of a sentence.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we are creatures of convention, and whether or not those English teachers a hundred years ago were wrong, it does not mean that it has not affected traditions or our perceptions of them.
It is still largely frowned upon in business or academic writing to start sentences with any coordinating conjunction.
Students are free to impress their associate professor with a debate, but it generally pays to follow the status quo in the business world.
In business writing, it is a matter of how your grammar affects the tone of what you are writing. Since using ‘and’ at the start of a sentence is generally perceived as bad form, it is probably better to avoid using it.
When you start a sentence with ‘and’ or any other conjunction, you can demonstrate how you are using the word with a different intention than as conjunction. Starting a sentence with ‘and’ becomes a form of emphasis.
And if nothing else, you can always say that you are using English that has been used for millennia.
Although it will probably take some time to shake off the stigma associated with ‘and’ at the start of a sentence, you are free to use it in all forms of its intended communication.
If you are in an academic or business setting, it may not hurt to conform to the norm, but in the off-hours, nothing says party like an ‘and’ at the start of a sentence.
The word ‘and’ has such staying power as a sentence starter that it can be considered a linguistic institution. It has been around for over a thousand years when not many words have. Academics once tried to cancel it.
The least we can do is preserve it and use it in its grammatically correct form.