Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

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Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby scratch123 » Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:28 am UTC

I think that "and" should be use to join 2 sentences together so why use it at the beginning of a sentence?
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Meteorswarm » Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:01 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:I think that "and" should be use to join 2 sentences together so why use it at the beginning of a sentence?


And why do you think that? I don't see a good reason for such a restriction. But perhaps you could elaborate?
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby poxic » Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:11 am UTC

The formal grammatical rule is that "and" is used to make a list, or to link subordinate clauses:

"I ate an apple and an elephant." <-- List.
"We laughed while we left the house and set it on fire." <-- Linked clauses.

It is (formally) not to be used to join complete sentences into one megasentence:

"I kissed my kitty cat and I kicked my puppy." <-- This is called a run-on sentence and is not formally correct, even if you add a comma before the "and".

Informally, the run-on sentence happens all the time in speech. It's hard to grammar on the fly. Also informally, and VERY occasionally formally, "and" can be used to start a sentence purely for the effect it has.

"I bequeath my entire estate to my loyal spouse of many years. And to my cat."
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Derek » Fri Nov 25, 2011 5:43 am UTC

poxic wrote:It is (formally) not to be used to join complete sentences into one megasentence:

"I kissed my kitty cat and I kicked my puppy." <-- This is called a run-on sentence and is not formally correct, even if you add a comma before the "and".

I have never heard such a rule, and I suspect that no prescritivists have ever proposed such a rule. It is entirely standard to join two separate sentences into one by separating them with ", and" (or any other conjunction). It is usually restricted to only two sentences, and it is usually said that you cannot begin a sentence with "And" (which is what this thread is about).
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby poxic » Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:05 am UTC

Hmm. I appear to have confused the "and" with a comma splice. I do recall teachers telling us not to and sentences together, but it may have been a stylistic choice rather than a grammicatifical one.

The "and" leading a sentence is rarely used formally, but it does happen. I'll see if I can remember a specific example anytime soon. *goes off to ponder*
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby TaintedDeity » Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:52 am UTC

Why shouldn't people start sentences with "and"?
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Makri » Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:53 am UTC

Facts about the English Language:
  • and can conjoin complete sentences.
  • and can conjoin subconstituents of sentences.
  • and can occur at the beginning of a sentence.
Whatever any prescriptivist may feel the need to say is entirely irrelevant.

The question what "and" does at the beginning of a sentence, however, is justified. (I charitably interpret the "why"-question in the first post as a "how can this make sense"-question.)

The first idea that jumped into my mind is that it contains a pronominal component p and means p and blablabla, where the pronoun p is then assigned what has been said before. Such could arise extremely easily in the history of a language, as a child would just have to misinterpret "p and q." as "p. And q.". The reverse, has happened innumerable times in the historical development of conjunctions, so it seems quite plausible that this could also happen (though it's not a given; maybe prosody is easier to misread in one direction). A problem for this view, however, is that it is not felicitous to say "p. p and q". Why should this be any different when the second occurence of "p" is pronominal? If "p. p and q" were bad in the same way as "Peter got up at 7 o'clock. Peter went to work." is, then the pronominalization would in fact be expected to rescue it. But I'm not sure the two sentences are really degraded in the same way.

Another idea would, of course, be that sentence-initial and is semantically vacuous. That, however, is rather easy to refute, as there is a clear restriction that you can't use it at the beginning of a discourse. So it does have some anaphoric quality.

So: I don't know, and it's a non-trivial question.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby scratch123 » Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:36 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:
scratch123 wrote:I think that "and" should be use to join 2 sentences together so why use it at the beginning of a sentence?


And why do you think that? I don't see a good reason for such a restriction. But perhaps you could elaborate?


So why is it much more common to see "and" in the middle of sentences than at the beginnning? I remember the first time I saw "and" at the beginning of a sentence it looked wrong for some reason and it still kind of does. I know I would personally never use that word to begin a sentence.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby eSOANEM » Mon Nov 28, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

scratch123 wrote:
Meteorswarm wrote:
scratch123 wrote:I think that "and" should be use to join 2 sentences together so why use it at the beginning of a sentence?


And why do you think that? I don't see a good reason for such a restriction. But perhaps you could elaborate?


So why is it much more common to see "and" in the middle of sentences than at the beginnning? I remember the first time I saw "and" at the beginning of a sentence it looked wrong for some reason and it still kind of does. I know I would personally never use that word to begin a sentence.


1. Because one usage is more common than the other. This is the case for every (that I can think of) word with multiple usages.

2. Ok, it seemed wrong to you. So what? To most people, it doesn't.

3. That's your prerogative. Telling other people they shouldn't is not.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:15 pm UTC

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage wrote:Everybody agrees that it's all right to begin a sentence with and, and nearly everybody admits to having been taught at some past time that the practice was wrong. Most of us think the prohibition goes back to our early school days. Baily 1984 points out that the prohibition is probably meant to correct the tendency of children to string together independent clauses or simple declarative sentences with ands.... As children grow older and master the more sophisticated technique of subordinating clauses, the prohibition of and becomes unnecessary. But apparently our teachers fail to tell us when we may forget about the prohibition. Consequently, many of us go through life thinking it wrong to begin a sentence with and.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby PAstrychef » Sat Dec 03, 2011 5:17 pm UTC

It may well be that it is being used, in speech at least, as a place holder for the utterance yet to come. Just like umms and urrs.
In writing, it links the pervious thought, which in text dialog may not have been expressed by the author. It completes a thought or idea that the writers felt was left unfinished in the previous statement.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby UniqueScreenname » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:13 am UTC

The only time I will do it is if I forgot a thought and I want to link them together. This most often happens when I'm mad or ranting about something stupid. Ex: "That dress is all wrong for her. It's too big in several places. And it's the wrong color." Something like that.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Eugo » Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:46 pm UTC

UniqueScreenname wrote:The only time I will do it is if I forgot a thought and I want to link them together. This most often happens when I'm mad or ranting about something stupid. Ex: "That dress is all wrong for her. It's too big in several places. And it's the wrong color." Something like that.

There's also a quite common usage when the speaker wants to conclude, or continue, something from the previous conversation, after some pause occurred.

"And somewhere in there, the boy's mother went out and told the receptionist that Billy was evidently going crazy." - Kurt Vonnegut.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby distractedSofty » Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:07 am UTC

Joker: We really should stop this fighting, otherwise we'll miss the fireworks.
Batman: There won't be any fireworks.
Joker: And here we... go.

One of the most memorable lines in recent cinema can't be wrong.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby sje46 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:20 pm UTC

poxic wrote:"I kissed my kitty cat and I kicked my puppy." <-- This is called a run-on sentence and is not formally correct, even if you add a comma before the "and".

Informally, the run-on sentence happens all the time in speech. It's hard to grammar on the fly. Also informally, and VERY occasionally formally, "and" can be used to start a sentence purely for the effect it has.

This is not a run-on sentence. It is grammatically correct to use "and" to link prepositional phrases...it's a conjunction. It is correct because it is a trend that a large amount of people do and can understand easily and isn't even looked down upon by prescriptivists.

When you see a run-on sentence, you know it's a run-on sentence. "I kissed my kitty cat and I kicked my puppy" sounds perfectly natural to speakers of English. But "My car is out of gas we cannot reach town before dark." does *not*. The latter is a run-on sentence because there is nothing to separate the two sentences.

EDIT: I forgot a conjunction in one of my sentences, ironically resulting in a run-on sentence.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby ewomack » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:23 am UTC

I've never seen a rule against using "and" at the beginning of a sentence. If one exists, please reference it (and maybe I'll stop putting "and" at the beginning of sentences - I do it frequently).
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby ekolis » Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:39 am UTC

Hasn't this been going on since the days of, oh, say, Gutenberg?

"And thus spakest the Lord: 'Furthermore, thine flocks of sheep shalt never grazeth in yon pastures beyond the land of Nogebow, for there is where thou wouldst find womenfolks who are not smart, and menfolks who are not good-looking, and childfolks who are by no means above-average.'"

(totally made up Bible verse, but you get the point :P )

Or am I completely imagining this pattern?

(is it OK to begin a sentence with "or"?)
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Makri » Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:58 am UTC

At least you've made up the morphology on the verbs, using second person endings in the third (singular and plural) twice. :mrgreen:

Curiously, it is possible to begin sentences with "or", but it seems to me that this has a slightly different status. It's more like an afterthought. You didn't consider the alternative possibility that q at first, and so you say "p.", and then it occurs to you that, actually, q might also be the case. So you add "Or q." (Or someone else says it for you, thereby mildly correcting you.)
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Catmando » Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:23 pm UTC

I think that in many written cases it's just done to take advantage of the pause produced by the use of the period. Consider poxic's example:

"I bequeath my entire estate to my loyal spouse of many years. And to my cat."

I believe that a dash would have been more appropriate in this situation, but it has pretty much the same pause power as a period, and a lot of people don't use dashes, or at least not very often—and so the above situation happens. I guess that you could also say it happens in written speech as well, but if I were transcribing what someone was saying as they said it, I would use a dash in the above situation.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby trois_pistoles » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:16 pm UTC

"There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues."
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby The Milkman » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:20 am UTC

ekolis wrote:Hasn't this been going on since the days of, oh, say, Gutenberg?

"And thus spakest the Lord: 'Furthermore, thine flocks of sheep shalt never grazeth in yon pastures beyond the land of Nogebow, for there is where thou wouldst find womenfolks who are not smart, and menfolks who are not good-looking, and childfolks who are by no means above-average.'"

(totally made up Bible verse, but you get the point :P )

Or am I completely imagining this pattern?

(is it OK to begin a sentence with "or"?)


It's not conceived to be illegal in Biblical Hebrew to start a sentence with and.

It's actually a major part of the grammar and style of the Bible.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby ekolis » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:51 am UTC

Catmando wrote:I think that in many written cases it's just done to take advantage of the pause produced by the use of the period. Consider poxic's example:

"I bequeath my entire estate to my loyal spouse of many years. And to my cat."


This is why I put a horizontal line after not only the amount, but also the recipient, when I write a check. Someone could easily turn "Joe Smith" into "Joe Smith or Marlene Smith", or whatever...
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Anachrome » Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:52 am UTC

I feel like this is relevant: Ancient Greek (insofar as I understand) has the word δε, which gets put at the beginning of sentences a lot:
ο λιθος καλος εστι. οι ανθρωποι δε τον λιθον τυπτομεν. [The rock is goodly. And the men hit the rock]
I usually leave it out of translations--it doesn't really have a tangible meaning, per se, but helps control the flow of speech. I feel like this is what 'And' is doing at the beginning of a sentence.
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Re: Why do people begin sentences with the word "and"?

Postby Eugo » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:30 pm UTC

ekolis wrote:Or am I completely imagining this pattern?

(is it OK to begin a sentence with "or"?)

Why not? Even when it's not a question. I've encountered many cases when a problem was discussed, along with possible solutions, and the introduction of the next attempt would be a sentence like

Or we could introduce a...
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