Can You Start a Sentence With “Otherwise”?

Starting a sentence with "otherwise" has been a contentious topic among language enthusiasts and scholars for years. Some argue it's grammatically accurate, while others consider it a stylistic blunder. If you're looking to settle this debate, stay tuned till the end of the article.

The Role of "Otherwise" in a Sentence

"Otherwise" is an adverb, and it is primarily used to indicate a different or opposite situation or effect. Its common uses include showing a contrasting result, stating a condition, or offering an alternative scenario. For example, in the sentence "I have to finish this work, otherwise I will be behind schedule," "otherwise" is used to introduce a potential consequence.

Instances Where Starting With "Otherwise" Works Well

There are instances where "otherwise" can indeed start a sentence effectively. When used correctly, it can bring about a dramatic effect or emphasize a point. It is particularly effective when used to introduce a contrasting idea or an alternative reality. Here are some examples:

Sentence Explanation
"Otherwise, we would have been lost." Here, "otherwise" indicates a contrasting result, implying that an action prevented them from being lost.
"Otherwise, who would care for the animals?" In this context, "otherwise" introduces a rhetorical question, highlighting the necessity of someone's actions.
"Otherwise, the outcome could have been disastrous." Here, "otherwise" is used to introduce a hypothetical outcome.
"Otherwise, we'll be late for the meeting." In this sentence, "otherwise" presents a possible future situation.
"Otherwise, I wouldn't be here today." Here, "otherwise" is used to express a contrasting situation in the past.

Instances Where Caution is Needed

However, starting a sentence with "otherwise" can sometimes create ambiguity or confusion, especially when the connection with the previous sentence or idea isn't explicit. Here are a few potential pitfalls:

Sentence Explanation
"Otherwise, the cake was delicious." Without context, it's unclear what "otherwise" is contrasting with.
"Otherwise, it's raining today." "Otherwise" needs a condition or situation to contrast with – it doesn't work well with standalone statements.
"Otherwise, she's a good singer." The contrast or alternative scenario implied by "otherwise" is unclear here.
"Otherwise, I bought a new car." This sentence is confusing because "otherwise" doesn't logically connect to the action of buying a car.
"Otherwise, the cat is black." "Otherwise" isn't appropriate here because it's not presenting an alternative scenario or contrasting with anything.

Tips for Using "Otherwise" at the Beginning of a Sentence

When using "otherwise" at the start of a sentence, make sure the connection to the previous sentence or idea is clear. Remember that "otherwise" is used to introduce a contrasting situation, so there must be a clear point of contrast. Do not use "otherwise" to start sentences if it doesn't logically connect with the preceding sentence.

Common Misconceptions and Myths

  • Myth: "Otherwise" should never start a sentence. Reality: It's not a hard and fast rule. It entirely depends on the context and the connection to the previous sentence or idea.
  • Myth: "Otherwise" can only be used in the middle of a sentence. Reality: While it's commonly used in the middle, it can also be effective at the beginning of a sentence when used correctly.


In conclusion, it is indeed possible to start a sentence with "otherwise," provided it's used correctly. The key is ensuring a clear connection with the preceding sentence or idea. Remember, "otherwise" is a tool for contrasting situations – use it to emphasize an alternate reality or a different outcome.

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