Is there any difference between since and because?


Bob gave him a candy because he was nice.

Bob gave him a candy since he was nice.

Note: If someone has a better example, please post it in the comments

  • 1
    In your context, there is no difference – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 18 '14 at 3:44
  • Coincidentally, I found a sentence today which includes 'since' twice - once with the meaning of 'because' and once with the meaning of 'after': 'Ser Rodrik had ordered Osha's chain struck off, since she had served faithfully and well since she had been at Winterfell' (GRR Martin, A Game of Thrones) (emphasis added). – Sydney Jul 18 '14 at 11:36

I knew one English professor who was fond of saying that we should never use since instead of because. We all thought he was an idiot for saying so, but perhaps purist would be a better word than idiot. To be fair, he also said this in the context of a technical writing course, so perhaps he'd even relax his own standards in the context of casual conversation.

I found this snippet on a discussion board:

This is "purist" territory. Purists will tell you that since refers to time – specifically, the amount of time that has elapsed from a starting point. Since I started work today, I've received 57 e-mails. And they will tell you that only because (not since) shows causation. So Since I started my new job today, I'm no longer looking for employment is where you should use "because."

So, back to your two examples:

Bob gave him a candy because he was nice.

Here, the candy is a reward for the lad's nice behavior. However, this sentence:

Bob gave him a candy since he was nice.

could be construed to mean that Bob gave a candy after – not necessarily because – the boy was nice.

Practically speaking, I think the difference is trivial in your example. So long as there were no pedants in the room, you could probably get away with using the two words interchangeably. Yet there are contexts where you'd want to be more careful:

Since the industrial era began, the earth has begun warming.
Because the industrial era began, the earth has begun warming.

Those two sentences have very different meanings – in the first sentence, the temperature rise might have coincided with the dawn of the industrial age by chance. The second sentence unequivocally asserts that one caused the other.

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  • Truly amazing answer. +1 :) – Maulik V Jul 22 '14 at 5:16

As FumbleFingers points out, there is no difference in this context. That's because for those examples, the word since means for the reason that OR because.

I found a good piece of information here on WritersDigest.

While “because” does imply cause, “since” can imply time or cause. What does that mean? It means that most of the time these words are synonymous and you can use either one.

Since my dog is so hairy, I have to get its hair cut regularly.
Because my dog is so hairy, I have to get its hair cut regularly.

Both of these sentences are correct. The only trap you have to watch out for when using “since” is ambiguity.

Since we had breakfast, we were filled with energy.

This lets you wonder, were we filled with energy because of breakfast or just after breakfast?

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'Since' can also be used to mean 'for the reason that' or 'because' as well as referring to time. This can cause confusion unless the writer is careful :

"Since Paul left university last year, he has no academic qualification"

When you start to read this sentence, it seems to mean "Ever since/from the time he left last year,..." , But it really means "Because he dropped out of university, he has no degree."

"Bob gave him a candy because he was nice"

"Bob gave him a candy since he was nice"

This same issue has been discussed on other online forums. As one person wrote in TFD's forums in 2011:

  • Because of the risk of confusion, and at this stage of learning English, it might be better to use 'because', and use 'since' only when referring to a period of time.

and here, someone wrote:

  • There is no confusion when you use the word "because." There is no confusion when you use "since" for the passage of time. You add an element of doubt when you use "since" as a cause when you could instead be more precise and use "because." I avoid the use of "since" to indicate cause.
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  • Please don't plagiarize. – snailplane Jul 25 '14 at 14:19
  • @snailplane lifestyle. – Mohamed Hamza Jul 25 '14 at 14:33
  • Your last bullet is copied verbatim from here. The one before that was copied from here. You ARE allowed to copy from other sources, but NOT if you act as though you've composed the sentence yourself. I have edited the question to show how this can be done properly. – J.R. Jul 26 '14 at 8:13
  • I think the entire answer needs citing… – snailplane Jul 27 '14 at 8:22

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