The Grammarphobia Blog

No ifs about “and” or “but”

Q: I have a question regarding the use of the words “and” or “but” to begin sentences. All through my years of education I was taught that it is improper to begin a sentence with them. I am aware that there are exceptions, but I’m not sure what they are. Can you help?

A: Contrary to popular opinion (if not popular usage), there’s no grammatical foundation to the prohibition against starting a sentence with the conjunctions “and” or “but.” It’s one of the most common myths about English grammar.

Some English teachers have enforced the mistaken notion that these conjunctions should be used only to join elements within a sentence, not to join one sentence with another. Not so! It’s been common practice to begin sentences with “and” or “but” since at least as far back as the tenth century. But don’t overdo it or your writing will sound monotonous.