Top 10 grammar myths: you can’t start a sentence with And or But

Many fine writers, including Shakespeare, Blake, Tennyson and Kipling, have used And or But at the beginning of sentences. Here’s an extract from Blake’s famous hymn, ‘Jerusalem’.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Why have so many people had it drummed into them that starting a sentence with And or But is wrong? It is probably because of a belief that conjunctions join elements within sentences, not connect sentences. However, when used at the beginning of a sentence, And and But are conjuncts, rather than conjunctions.

What’s the difference? Both are joining words that relate ideas to each other, but conjuncts, unlike conjunctions, can be moved to different parts of a sentence because they are not connecting grammatical parts.

Having stated the case for And or But, I probably wouldn’t start sentences with these words in formal writing. And and But work better at the beginning of sentences in informal, conversational writing.

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