Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Because vs. since

James Kilpatrick's language column this week deals with since vs. because. He leads with:
Let it be conceded, up front and without a single quibble, that "since" can function as a conjunction meaning "inasmuch as" or "because." Thus, it is permissible to say, "Since we ran out of Scotch, we'll have to drink gin." The New World Dictionary provides a less interesting example: "Since you are finished, let's go."
But because is often more clear than since because since's primary definition has to do with time.

(Last week's column, which I failed to mention here, was on creating new words.)


At 9:52 PM, April 01, 2005, Blogger aparker54 said...

Bryan Garner, in Garner's Modern American Usage, says, s.v. since (pp. 725-26): "This subordinating conjunction may bear a sense either of time or of logical connection. Despite the canard that the word properly relates only to time, the causal meaning has existed continuously in the English language for more than a thousand years. In modern print sources, the causal sense is almost as common as the temporal sense. Typically, *since* expresses a milder sense of causation than *because* does. ...
Be careful, though, of starting a sentence with *since* and then using a past-tense construction, which can lead to ambiguity. ..."

In James Kilpatrick's defense of "because" over "since," the four sentences he used had no ambiguity, I would think. But I wasn't taught the "because/since" superstition as a youngster. I have noticed that it's hard to make people let go of silly rules such as that, once they've been beaten in.

I hope most copy editors don't go around changing sinces to becauses without asking, at least if there's no ambiguity. That would be to destroy a shade of meaning -- the milder sense of causation -- and perhaps to ruin the author's desired assonance and rhythm.

At 5:24 PM, April 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


In addition to above, what is the difference between "since", "because" and "for"?

At 12:24 PM, September 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about as vs. because? For example,

"XZY argued this because their results showed..."

"XYZ argued this as their results showed..."

At 11:23 AM, August 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying "since" instead of because seems more informal to me, and not as good in some circumstances. If there is no difference we should drop one completely, or be mutually exclusive. You can't say I have been a golfer because I was five years old.

Saying "as" instead of because seems more snooty to me for some reason.


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