Writing Skills

Can You Start a Sentence with But?

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Can You Start a Sentence with But

Have you ever been told that starting a sentence with the word “but” is a grammatical error? Many people have been given this advice, but is it really true? “But” is a powerful word that connects or compares ideas, making sentences more interesting. In this article, we will explore the answer to the question “Can you start a sentence with But?

Can you start a sentence with But?

You can start a sentence with “But,” and it is generally acceptable in modern English. However, this wasn’t always the case, as traditional grammar rules discouraged beginning sentences with coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “or,” etc. In the past, these conjunctions were primarily seen as connectors between independent clauses within a sentence. For example, “but” can join two nouns, two adjectives, two verbs, or two independent clauses. Here are some examples:

  • I like pizza but not pasta. (two nouns)
  • He is tall but thin. (two adjectives)
  • She studies but doesn’t work. (two verbs)
  • I wanted to go, but I was too tired. (two independent clauses)

However, contemporary usage has evolved, and starting a sentence with “But” is now considered acceptable for a more casual or conversational tone. Starting a sentence with “but” can be effective in some situations, such as:

  • To emphasize or highlight a point that is different from or contrary to a previous statement. For example, “Sophia said she was sorry. But she didn’t mean it.”
  • To introduce a new or unexpected idea or information that changes the direction or tone of the discourse. For example, “But wait, there’s more!”
  • To express a personal opinion or feeling that may differ from others or the facts. For example, “But I don’t want to go to school.”

It’s important to note that while it’s acceptable in many situations, you should still use this construction judiciously. In formal writing, such as academic papers or professional documents, you may want to be more cautious and opt for alternative sentence structures. Always consider the context and audience when deciding whether to start a sentence with “But.”

When should you start a sentence with but?

1. Contrast: The use of “but” to introduce contrast or contradiction helps highlight a shift in direction or expectation. “He wanted to go to the party. But he had to finish his homework.” In this example, “But” signals a conflict between the desire to attend a party and the responsibility of completing homework.


  • She liked the idea of a big party. But her budget said no.
  • He is great at soccer. But in the last match, he made mistakes.

2. Emphasis: Starting a sentence with “But” can bring emphasis to a particular point or introduce a sudden change in the situation. In the sentence, “The weather was perfect for a picnic. But, suddenly, dark clouds appeared on the horizon,” the conjunction “But” draws attention to the unexpected development of dark clouds, emphasizing the shift from ideal picnic conditions.


  • The concert was amazing. But suddenly, the lead singer fell on stage.
  • Our hike was going well. But then, out of nowhere, it started raining heavily.

3. Connecting Ideas: “But” is useful for connecting related ideas and providing a smooth transition between sentences. In the example, “She loves to read books. But, surprisingly, she has never visited a library,” the conjunction “But” connects the two statements, creating a sense of contrast between the love for reading and the surprising fact about not visiting a library.


  • He enjoys painting. But surprisingly, he has never taken an art class.
  • She is a talented pianist. But, strangely, she struggles to read sheet music.

4. Tone: Starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction like “but” allows you to infuse specific tones into your writing, such as frustration or anger. This stylistic choice can create a sense of anticipation and emphasize the difference between the two ideas.

For example, if you’re frustrated with bad customer service, you might say, ‘The customer service was terrible. But I patiently explained my issue multiple times.’ Here, ‘But’ helps you emphasize your frustration and the contrast between the bad service and your patient attempts to solve the problem.”


  • The movie had a happy plot. But, the ending was abrupt and sad.
  • The presentation seemed good. But, sadly, technical issues messed it up.

Guidelines for Using “But”

Consider the Tone

The choice of using “But” at the beginning of a sentence depends on the tone of your writing. In formal contexts, it’s generally recommended to use it sparingly. It is advised to use alternatives like “however” instead of starting a sentence with “But.”

Incorrect: “But, despite the challenging circumstances, the team managed to meet the project deadline.”

Correct: “However, despite the challenging circumstances, the team managed to meet the project deadline.”

In more casual or creative writing, starting a sentence with “But” can be acceptable to add a conversational touch. For example: “We were supposed to arrive by 9 am. But, of course, we got stuck in traffic.”

Clarity is Key

While starting a sentence with “But” can be effective, it’s essential to ensure that it doesn’t confuse the reader. The sentence should flow naturally, and the use of “But” should enhance clarity and coherence rather than disrupt the overall understanding of the text.

Incorrect: “But the weather was perfect. The outdoor event was canceled.”

Correct: “The weather was perfect, but the outdoor event was canceled.”

Here, the correction ensures a smoother flow, avoiding potential confusion about the cause-and-effect relationship between the two sentences.

How to Avoid Starting a Sentence with But?

Some Possible Ways to Avoid Starting a Sentence with “But” are:

  • Use a different transition word or phrase, such as “however”, “nevertheless”, “on the other hand”, “although”, etc. For example, “Monica said she was sorry. However, she didn’t mean it.”
  • Combine two or more sentences into one, using commas, semicolons, or dashes. For example, “Sophia said she was sorry, but she didn’t mean it.”
  • Rewrite the sentence to eliminate the need for “but”. For example, “Monica’s apology was insincere.”

How to avoid sentence fragments with “but” at the beginning?

To avoid sentence fragments with “but” at the beginning, you need to ensure that the phrase that follows “but” can stand alone as a complete sentence. In other words, it should have both a subject and a predicate. If the phrase lacks either of these, it becomes a sentence fragment. Here are some examples:

  • Fragment: But, feeling tired after the long journey.
    • Correction: But he was feeling tired after the long journey.
  • Fragment: But, with no clear destination in mind.
    • Correction: But they had no clear destination in mind.

In each of these examples, adding a subject to the phrase that follows “but” creates a complete sentence and eliminates the sentence fragment.

Starting a Sentence with “But” in Business Writing

The use of “But” at the beginning of a sentence in business writing is a nuanced decision that depends on the context and formality of the communication.  

Consider the Formality

In formal business documents, such as reports, proposals, or official correspondence, it’s advisable to adhere to traditional grammar conventions. Starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions like “But” might be perceived as less formal. In such cases, opting for alternative transitional phrases like “However,” “Nevertheless,” or “On the other hand” may be more appropriate.

Client Communications and Emails

For less formal business writing, such as client communications or internal emails, starting a sentence with “But” can contribute to a conversational and approachable tone. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance and avoid overusing this construction to maintain a professional image.

Emphasizing Points and Clarity

In business writing, the strategic use of “But” can be effective for emphasizing points, providing clarity, or introducing a contrasting idea. For instance:

  • Effective Use: “The marketing strategy yielded positive results. But, we must remain vigilant to adapt to changing market trends.”

Tips for Using “But” in Business Writing

  1. Professionalism: Maintain professionalism in formal business documents by using alternative transition words.
    • Incorrect: “But, according to the financial report, our profits have declined.”
    • Correct: “However, according to the financial report, our profits have declined.”
  2. Clarity and Conciseness: When using “But” in business writing, prioritize clarity and conciseness. Ensure that the sentence flows logically and contributes to the overall coherence of your message.
    • Incorrect: “But the project is behind schedule. Due to unforeseen circumstances that caused delays.”
    • Correct: “The project is behind schedule, but unforeseen circumstances have caused delays.”
  3. Know Your Audience: Understand the expectations and preferences of your audience. If your business communication is with a team familiar with a more casual tone, starting a sentence with “But” may be well-received.

In summary, while starting a sentence with “But” is generally acceptable in business writing, the degree of formality and the context should guide your decision. Striking the right balance ensures effective communication while maintaining a professional tone in the business environment.


So, can you start a sentence with But? Yes, starting a sentence with “But” is generally acceptable in modern English, especially in casual or expressive writing. However, it’s essential to consider the context and maintain clarity in your communication. So go ahead, use “But” when it adds value to your sentence and enhances your writing style.


Is it grammatically correct to start a sentence with but?

Yes, it’s grammatically correct. Language rules change, and starting with “but” is widely accepted in modern writing. It’s all about adapting to the evolving nature of language. Example: “The concert was sold out. But we managed to find tickets at the last minute.”

Can you start a sentence with but in business writing?

In business writing, it’s good to be a bit more cautious. While not strictly forbidden, assess the formality of the context. If the tone allows, starting with “but” can add clarity, but consider alternatives in more formal documents. Example: “The budget projections are optimistic. However, we need to be mindful of potential risks.”

Can I start a sentence with but in creative writing?

Absolutely! In creative writing, starting a sentence with “but” is not only allowed but can also enhance the flow and style of your narrative. Example: “The city was silent. But hidden beneath its stillness, a thousand stories whispered in the wind.”

Can you start a sentence with but in a poem?

Certainly! In poetry, there are no strict rules, and starting a sentence with “but” can add a unique rhythm or emphasis to your lines. Example:
“The stars above, silent watchers in the night,
But in their gleam, tales of love take flight.”

Why should you avoid starting a sentence with “but” in formal writing?

In more formal settings, starting with “but” can be seen as less traditional. While it’s not strictly forbidden, it’s good to be mindful of the tone. You might consider alternatives like “however” or “although” for a more formal touch. Example: “The proposal is comprehensive. However, it lacks some key details.”

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