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I realized I start sentences with the, he, she, it, after and then all the time. So I'm starting to use verbs instead. Here is an example of something I wrote:

Erin left out a sigh. "Why am I thinking so much about this?"

She decided to forget about the thing, and go lie on bed instead. Talking to herself had really made her tired; a little bit more and she would go crazy. She reached to her desk and grabbed her phone. Hearing Benjamin's voice would probably snap her back to reality.

I remember having read about this long ago (but I don't remember if the author considered it good or bad writing).

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English sentences can only ever start with nouns or a suitable substitute. Exceptions include phrases in the imperative and certain idioms and expressions. Pronouns can, and often should, be substituted for nouns in fiction as always referring to an object by its proper name/noun gets troublesome quickly; ask the guys behind Lojban. So you can't have a problem with 'over-using' pronouns. The structure might need some work and variation, but I can't help with that. What you call 'verbs' (talking-hearing-...) are gerunds or present participles, somewhat more 'nouns' than 'verbs'. –  Mussri Dec 14 '12 at 17:47
    
@Mussri, can you cite a source for your assertion? –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 14 '12 at 18:52
    
@LaurenI, Which? Although now I think I should have said "English phrases can only ever start with nouns or a suitable substitute." which might not change anything so which part do you disagree with? –  Mussri Dec 14 '12 at 19:43
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@Mussri Okay, your new comment makes sense. But saying "English is an SVO language" (which describes how the grammar functions) is NOT semantically the same as saying "English sentences must START with a noun and END with a verb" (which demands the same structure of every sentence). The former is correct. The latter is demonstrably not. –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 15 '12 at 2:13
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@Mussri No, not at all. It's a learning process for everyone. Why remove it just because it took a while for us to understand one another? The entire comment trail is worthwhile. –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 15 '12 at 21:13

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Sentences should start with anything that makes grammatical and syntactical sense. Writers create, so create your own rules. As long as they make sense, your reader will understand.

Your example is actually a gerund, which does act as a noun, but consider these:

  • "To be or not to be?" (Starts with a preposition.)

  • "Brilliantly, he began his sentence with a verb." (Starts with an adverb.)

  • "Skilled and astute, he quickly posted his question on Stack Exchange." (Starts with an adjective.)

  • "And even some sentences can start with conjunctions." (Starts with ... a conjunction.)

I believe that all of these are correct.

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To be or not to be does not start with a preposition. It starts with an infinitive verb. –  TRiG Feb 1 '13 at 23:56

Begin a sentence with a verb sometimes. See, I just did. Twice.

As others have noted, you're apparently confusing gerunds with verbs in your example. But that said, gerunds are perfectly good words and can be used to vary your sentence structure.

I don't know where you were told that a sentence can never begin with a verb. Imperative sentences (i.e. commands) routinely start with verbs: "Go to the store." "Bring me the book." Etc. It's relatively rare otherwise in English, as the conventional structure is subject-verb-object, but it's not unheard of. "Thinking quickly, Bob leaped for the door." "'Leaving so soon?' Sally asked." Sometimes it's effective to use a non-standard word order for emphasis or to save an unexpected word for last. "Left in the middle of the night, he did." "Kill me they might, but they will never defeat me."

If you find that you are in a rut and all your sentences follow the same pattern, then, as Tylerharms says, I would definitely make an effort to consciously break the pattern. (Now that you mention this, I have to look at my own writing and see if I've fallen into this!) Of course one should avoid the opposite extreme, of trying so hard to vary your sentence constructions that you over-use odd phrasings.

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If you are struggling with variety in your sentence structure, I think you should make it a writing exercise to begin sentences with verbs. Then do an exercise where you begin sentences with adjectives. Then do an exercise where you begin sentences with words that rhyme with blue. Any and all techniques that force you out of your comfort zone and get you to practice new forms of writing are good. Ultimately, you should seek variety in your writing, but this is not something you just do. As you have found, once you get used to a certain organizational structure, you start thinking that way. Other sentence constructions have to become comfortable to you before you can start implementing them effectively. So, while the simple advice is to just unfetter yourself, the hard truth is that it's going to seem like you're writing gibberish until new writing constructions feel natural.

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None of your sentences start with verbs, though two of them start with gerunds, which is not quite the same thing. In any case, I think that you are fretting about nothing. If your sentences sound fine to you as an English speaker and they avoid the monotony that you were noticing before, then by all means write them however you want. I can't think of many things less useful for a writer than worrying about imaginary rules like "don't start with a verb".

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