My 7th graders recently spent some time trying to figure out the difference between “because ______” and “because OF _____” in preparation for their midterm tests. It caused a whole lot of consternation, even though the answer is fairly straightforward and easy to follow.
Simply, “because [reason]” is used to introduce a secondary clause; while “because of [reasons]” is used, like prepositions do, with noun phrases.
“I can’t go tonight because I have too much homework.”
“I can’t go tonight because of work.”
Unfortunately, 7th graders have a hard time understanding the difference between Independent Clauses and Noun Phrases (Hell, I had trouble with the idea of verbs in 7th grade). So it can actually be more tricky than normal to explain at times. But since I don’t actually teach grammar, this responsibility mostly fell on the shoulders of my co-teacher.
However, it took almost everything I had to not teach the kids my favorite grammatical structure, which completely breaks this rule.
The “Because reasons” structure.
It’s an emerging usage that I’m sure really annoys a lot of people, but I just can’t get enough of it. It think it’s funny in almost any situation. Twitter is abuzz with this usage, here are some examples.
As you can see from the examples, the usage doesn’t exactly replace the “because of” structure. Instead, it carves out it’s own little category within. “Because reasons” is used to exaggerate the meaningfulness of the reasons. Something like,
“I can’t go tonight (and it should be completely obvious why that I’m not even going to waste my time explaining) because reasons.”
Or, it used when there really aren’t any reasons, but the speaker wants to promote their proposition anyway, like this example:
However, because the “because reasons” structure is used either jovially or emphatically, it can be misused, particularly in situations when stating the reason is actually necessary. Take this example:
Notice that the writer actually then produces the reasons for disagreement. The “because reasons” usage feels out of place. Which is not to say it is ungrammatical. It seems as grammatical as any other use, it just feels less appropriate, or at least less funny.
The grammar of “because reasons” involves the adverbial conjunction “because” changing its part of speech into a preposition. This is actually more interesting than it sounds, as it is not everyday that a new word becomes a preposition. Language mavens may lament what they call “Zombie nouns”, but the truth is, one of the beautiful facts of English that words can move in and out of certain categories (like nouns to verbs, or vice versa). But not all word categories easily do so. Prepositions are one such category.