Aug 06, 2012

Grammar Hammer: Since vs. Because

Because August has no official holidays, today’s post is about the bizarre and wacky unofficial holidays this month!

Did you know that August is Family Fun Month, National Catfish Month, National Eye Exam Month, National Golf Month, Peach Month, Romance Awareness Month, Water Quality Month, National Picnic Month — or my favorite — Admit You’re Happy Month? (Just admit it already!) These themes are the perfect excuses to do some fun/wacky/healthy things for the next few weeks.

Since the beginning of August, I’ve been meaning to cover the rules of when to use since vs. because.

Purists will tell you that there’s a right and wrong answer about when to use since vs. because – but the explanation is confusing and not clearly definable. My answer? Go with your gut. It is, however, helpful to understand the types of sentences where each is most likely to appear, in order to avoid sounding awkward.

Main Rule: Since generally references time and/or causation, while because generally only references causation.

Therefore, it’s more likely you’ll use because awkardly; since can be used appropriately in most sentences that require this type of word.

Here are examples of when the words are interchangeable:

  • Because/since it’s National Catfish Month, catch a big one! [correct]
  • Give your girlfriend a big kiss because/since it’s Romance Awareness Month. [correct]

Here is an example of when because sounds awkward, due to time reference:

  • Since we went peach picking, I’ve been craving peaches. [correct]
  • Because we went peach picking, I’ve been craving peaches. [incorrect]

In this instance, try inserting the phrase the time after after since to test for grammaticality.

  • Since [the time that] we went peach picking, I’ve been craving peaches. [correct]

Also, there’s the obvious case where because just won’t sound right:

  • Since Friday, I’ve been thinking a lot about golf. [correct]
  • Because Friday, I’ve been thinking a lot about golf. [incorrect]

Conclusion: If you can’t decide whether since or because sounds better, probably just go with since, since it will likely sound less awkward!

Happy August!

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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