I was checking the definition for the word gauche on Cambridge, I found this line:

"awkward and uncomfortable with other people, especially because young and without experience"

My question can we always use this pattern? Or it's like that because it's not a full sentence. Is there any deletion grammar for the conjunction because and the adjectives?

  • The example is not grammatical. young does not modify anything, and the entire phrase following because (used as a conjunction) is not independent. I suspect they meant being instead.
    – user3169
    Jun 4, 2018 at 6:04
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    Why on earth are you trying to analyse dictionary definitions? They are typically compressed and don't always parse easily. In your example, the because phrase gives the reason they are awkward and uncomfortable. It is understood as "... especially because they are young and without experience".
    – BillJ
    Jun 4, 2018 at 8:14
  • @BillJ Thanks for the info, but regarding your question probably, anythings new can be a question to a learner (?)
    – Cardinal
    Jun 4, 2018 at 17:50
  • @Cardinal I believe what BillJ was trying to say is that dictionaries use their own grammar, just like headlines, etc., so standard analyses don't apply, or shouldn't be expected to work.
    – user3395
    Jun 5, 2018 at 9:07

4 Answers 4


This is the relevant definition of because here:

used to introduce a word or phrase that stands for a clause expressing an explanation or reason.

  • ‘there's probably somebody out there who would argue the point because Internet’
  • ‘making a bag of popcorn with hot sauce for lunch because hungry’

Oxford Dictionaries

So yes, because can be followed by an adjective, at least in very informal contexts. Usually it's used with nouns, but it is very versatile:

The construction is more versatile than “because+noun” suggests. Prepositional because can be yoked to verbs (Can’t talk now because cooking), adjectives (making up examples because lazy), interjections (Because yay!), and maybe adverbs too, though in strings like Because honestly., the adverb is functioning more as an exclamation. The resulting phrases are all similarly succinct and expressive.
‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar

The actual rules for this construct are more complicated than they might seem at first. For example it's not used with pronouns. This article outlines some of the rules.

See also:

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    Dictionary definitions are typically compressed and don't always parse easily. In this case the because phrase gives the reason they are awkward and uncomfortable. It is understood as "... especially because they are young and without experience".
    – BillJ
    Jun 4, 2018 at 8:17
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    I don't think this use of "because" is related to the quote from the Cambridge dictionary in the original post. Your links are talking about a very slangy usage of "because" which I think would not be used by the authors of a dictionary.
    – sumelic
    Jun 5, 2018 at 6:11

Normally we would expect to find if or when instead of because in that kind of construction.

Many people who arrive in the big city are taken advantage of, especially if|when young and inexperienced.

It can be understood as ellipsis of BE. It is a kind of predicate.

If I had the time, I could find some attestations with because. Note that they would be in a literary, even poetic, register, in formulaic legal documents, or in an abbreviated or laconic style as found in the dictionary.


I wouldn't recommend learning this as a pattern, because it's such an uncommon way of phrasing this kind of expression. Actually, I would say that the definition is badly written.

Basically, "because adjective" can sometimes be understood as meaning "because of being adjective". I don't know the exact way this works. I don't believe it is a particularly recent grammatical construction, and I don't think it is the same as the slangy, apparently recent usage of "because" mentioned in the links in Laurel's answer.

Here are some examples that I think are analogous that use "because unaware" to mean something like "because of being unaware":

  • Whenever a prophet or a philosopher speaks of a new man in a new age his creation is invariably the same, the old man in the old age, the animal in his animal kingdom, the beast in the grazing herd that browses for forage digesting and rutting and evacuating in a seemingly timeless eternity, untroubled because unaware of the troubles on every side, unliving because unaware of life.

    (Sinai Tapestry, by Edward Whittemore, 1977)

  • The modern nation, he claims, is dangerously inefficient because unaware of its true religious nature.

    (The Survey, Volume 37, 1916)

  • It was not for long they slept, out of the world and life and yet on the edge of them, happy because heedless, victorious over perils and temptations, and indifferent because unaware.

    ("A Tale of the Outer Isles", Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 173, p. 79, 1903)

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    I agree that the recent "slangy" usage of because isn't the salient candidate that might explain away this supposedly weird phrasing. That said, I'm able to parse it in the fashion BillJ mentions, and I don't think this is very weird or badly written, as you say. I use dictionaries frequently (I'm not a native speaker of English, if that isn't obvious) and encounter such wording often. See en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/unsayable, and look up embattled, unnameable, hard, and clandestine in the same dictionary.
    – user3395
    Jun 5, 2018 at 9:03
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    @userr2684291: Well, I guess it isn't so weird, but I think it is pretty rare in most contexts (as BillJ mentions, it may be more common in dictionary entries because they typically try to be brief). I said it was "badly written" because it seems like a few of the other people who have posted comments/answers found the wording odd or hard to understand or explain, but it's a matter of opinion.
    – sumelic
    Jun 5, 2018 at 9:06

We know the preposition "because" can take a NP, a PP with 'of', or a clause as its complement.

..."awkward and uncomfortable with other people, especially because they are young and without experience." (Here, a clause is the complement of the preposition 'because'.)

The part "they are" can be omitted. After ellipsis, we can say:

..."awkward and uncomfortable with other people, especially because young and without experience."

Therefore, because can be followed by an adjective, such as 'happy', 'sad', 'young', 'bored', 'tired' etc.

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