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Since vs because

Since can act as an adverb or a conjunction. In either case it can mean from a certain time in the past until the present, or after a certain time in the past. When used as a conjunction it can be used as a synonym for because.

Because is a conjunction which can either introduce an explanation or reason for something. It is also a synonym for since.

Traditionally there was a distinction between the two; however, they are interchangeable now. The one caveat is since’s dual definitions. Sometimes in a sentence, there may be ambiguity as to whether you are using the time meaning or the reasoning meaning. Because only has the reasoning meaning and may be more clear in those instances.


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Side note: Because carries its own ambiguity when it follows a negative. ‘He didn’t walk the dog because it was raining’ could mean the rain kept him from walking the dog, or that the rain was not the reason he didn’t walk the dog. To have your meaning be clear, it is best to use a difference sentence construction or a synonym for because.

Examples

Amazon’s stock is up 400 percent since the dot-com crash and more than 19,000 percent since the company went public in 1997. [CNBC]

It has since become one of the signature holiday decorations in the town, inspiring Stacy Howard, an office assistant with the town, to write a song, “The Lights of Blue,” in honor of Plouff and other fallen police officers. [Winston Salem Journal]

The prices at Alhayat Global Synergy women’s fashion house in the Sky Memorial Complex have gone up because the Nigerian currency, the naira, has lost 20% of its value in the last three months, as a consequence of the oil crisis. [BBC]

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Comments

  1. Hypophora says:

    Just noting a minor correction here. I think you probably meant: “‘He didn’t walk the dog because it was raining’ could mean the rain kept him from walking the dog, or that the rain was not the reason he WALKED the dog.” with “walked” replacing “didn’t walk” in the original sentence.

    • Grammarist-writer says:

      I did actually mean the double negative. The hypothetical man did not walk the dog for a different reason than the rain.

    • atomicpunk2001 says:

      Agreed!

      That first one had me baffled for a good five minutes until I tried saying it with a different intonation.
      Then I was about to comment that it needed to remove the negative.

      Also, “it is best to use a difference sentence construction” should be “different”.

    • Good catch.

    • Contra30ManCode says:

      I believe the author is saying something like this: “He didn’t walk the dog because it was raining – it was because the leash was broken.” As in, he didn’t care that it was raining. The real reason he didn’t walk the dog was because of something else. While someone speaking this could emphasize the correct parts for it to make sense, the inherit ambiguity with using ‘because’ this way is reinforced in writing.

      • But in your sentence he did walk the dog; if he didn’t walk the dog wouldn’t it need to be ‘He didn’t not walk the dog because it was raining – it was because the leash was broken’? As in, ‘He didn’t avoid walking the dog because it was raining…’

        • Contra30ManCode says:

          I’m not following you, Megan. I apologize. My sentence is trying to say he did not walk the dog.

          I’m pointing out that the author was correct in saying DIDN’T walk. Hypophora was suggesting the author was wrong for saying didn’t walk, but that would mean the dog was walked. At no point was the dog walked.

          “He didn’t walk the dog because it was raining” could mean two things:

          1. The rain is the reason the dog was not walked.
          2. The rain was not the reason the dog missed his walk . In my example it was because the leash was broken.

          Another example could be, “you would think the reason he didn’t walk the dog was because it was raining, but it was really because he had to straighten up the house before his guests arrived.

          • This is certainly a fascinating ambiguity! I understand what you are saying, but I am still in agreement with Hypophora above. The way I see it, in the first interpretation of the original sentence (that the rain was the reason for not walking the dog), ‘not’ negates ‘walk’, and in the second interpretation (as I understand it, that the rain was not the reason for walking the dog) it negates ‘because’ – so that would be synonymous with ‘He walked the dog, not because it was raining [but because the dog needed walking].’

            In your alternative example there is no ambiguity because ‘not’ can only apply to ‘walked the dog’. Perhaps I can better illustrate my point through some new sentences:

            1. I didn’t go because I heard there would be cake (and I am allergic to cake).
            2. I didn’t go because I heard there would be cake (I went because I wanted to see my friends).

            So in the first version the speaker didn’t go, and in the second version the speaker did go, but it was for a reason other than cake. I think these are equivalent to the two readings of the dog sentence.

            That’s a really silly example and I’m sure my attempts at explaining my point are appalling, so sorry! But I appreciate your taking the time to reply :)

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