Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"The reason is that" not "The reason is because"

From Ruge Rules

Incorrect: The reason I am late is because I had an accident.

Correct: The reason I am late is that I had an accident.

Why? Because an adverbial clause (a word or group of words answering the question "How?" When?" "Where?" Why?" or "To what degree?") cannot be used as a predicate nominative (a noun or pronoun or a group of words used as a noun or pronoun and answering the question "What?" or "Who?").

Example:

Incorrect: Scarlett O'Hara's dirtiest trick was when she lured Frank Kennedy into marrying her.

Correct: Scarlett O'Hara's dirtiest trick was luring Frank Kennedy into marrying her. (A gerund, or a verbal noun, phrase can be used as a predicate nominative.)

5 comments:

Hanna Thompson said...

This has nothing to do with adverbial clauses or predicative nominatives or any such thing, but quite simply with the fact that 'the reason is because' gives us an unnecessary doubling. Either 'the reason is that' or 'it is because'. No complicated syntax involved here, just simple logic.

Unknown said...

"The only reason the buddies in V.R.8 can hear the little burst of applause from the foyer is because Struck won't hesitate to pause and consider silently as long as he has to."
E.g., Infinite Jest p.120, by no less of a prescriptive grammarian than DF Wallace, who uses the same structure repeatedly. Some of these rules become so technical their purpose is lost. Even the prescriptives make room for certain usages where the meaning remains clear and there is no loss of logic. This is one such usage.

getitright said...

The good rules of a language are to be respected - especially the highly advanced English. The reason is that it shows coherent logic along with common sense.

reginald holden jennings said...

i found the rule simple enough, and whether or not other writers historically use such forms does not preclude such forms from being unnecessary. communication is usually clearer when it is concise.
even were there no rule regarding such language forms, "the reason is the why is the because" as a rule can always help create simple and clear sentence structure without being redundant, unless being redundant is preferable.

Warsaw Will said...

The only problem about this so-called rule is that it contradicts normal usage amongst all sorts of writers, including P.G.Wodehouse, Hemingway, Robert Frost and William Faulkner (Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage). Like "the reason why", it is perfectly good idiomatic English, redundancy and predicative-nominatives notwithstanding.