Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since



American English is a rich, expressive language. At the same time, it includes words that sometimes appear to be alike but have slight distinctions. Without recognizing those subtleties, we might use one word when we mean another.

As, because, and since are three conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses (those that cannot stand alone in sentences) connecting a result and a reason. A closer understanding of these words helps us write with greater clarity and emphasis in achieving this.

We use because when we want to focus more on the reason. We use as and since when we wish to center on the result.

Most commonly, the because clause emphasizing the reason ends the sentence; the as or since clause stressing the result starts the sentence. 

Examples 

Result: She got the promotion over four other candidates.
Reason: She knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the reason with because clause: She got the promotion over four other candidates because she knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the result with as clause: As she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

Sentence emphasizing the result with since clause: Since she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

The placement of the because, as, or since clause can be changed in the sentences above. Some writers might contend that only the shifted because clause maintains effective fluency while the repositioned as and since clauses sound more stilted. Moving the clauses will also change the emphasis by switching the order of the result and the reason.

Because she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, as she knew the system best.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, since she knew the system best.

Because is more common than as or since in both writing and speaking, suggesting we typically emphasize reasons more than results. As and since also are considered more formal in usage.

Looking at the details of these conjunctions polishes another tool in our quest to be writers of precision and eloquence.

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at 8:30 am

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6 Comments on Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since

6 responses to “Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since

  1. Karla Keeney says:

    I hesitate to use “since” because it can be confused with a time sequence.
    “Since she graduated from a large university, Ann landed the promotion.”
    Did the promotion happen because she graduated from a large university (maybe 20 years ago), or did it happen just after graduation?

    • You are correct in that since also has a definition involving time as an adverb (He got the job last year and has held it since), a preposition (It’s been cold since last week), and a conjunction (I’ve seen her once since she moved to Miami). However, since does not always imply time. Within our article, we focus on as, because, and since all as conjunctions that subordinate a clause according to emphasis on a reason or a result. In this context, as and since are interchangeable.

      In your example, since functions as a subordinating conjunction that stresses the result. Since and as could therefore be exchanged. At the same time, the sentence as written leaves room for ambiguity, because it could suggest time. For clarity, our recommendation would be to focus on the reason and subordinate with because: Ann landed the promotion because she graduated from a large university.

      Because of since‘s secondary meaning involving time, we are
      considering a follow-up article that would focus on this aspect.

  2. Andy says:

    Your article seems to say that “as” and “since” are interchangeable. I always understood there to be a difference between “as” and “since” – that “since” referenced a time factor. In other words, the result was available after (since) something else occurred. Example: Since she learned the system, she became eligible for the promotion. (She wasn’t eligible until after she learned the system.) In your example above, I would only use “as” and not “since” because there is no time component. Is this wrong? Thanks.

    • Please see our full response to Karla above. In your example, our recommendation would be to focus on the reason and subordinate with because: She became eligible for the promotion because she learned the system.

  3. Laura Reifschlager says:

    Please write a post on the appropriate use of the word “hack.” Hack means breaking into a computer or computer files. The blogger world uses it to mean shortcut or a more efficient way to do something such as dishwashing hacks. This drives me crazy.

  4. suzanne sullivan says:

    FINALLY! A lucid distinction between because vs. as/since. As an English and ESL teacher, I usually frame it as because = direct cause and since/as = condition that leads logically to the explanation: Since I’m already at the grocery store, I may as well buy what I’ll need all week.

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