Can You Start a Sentence With “When”?

You can start sentences with the word “when” in formal and informal writing. “When” at the start of a sentence forms part of a dependent clause and is usually followed by another clause. E.g., “When you finish work, I am taking you out for dinner.”

The word “when” refers to the time or times something happens. It can refer to one occasion or to things that occur frequently.

When you use “when” to begin a statement, another clause always follows it.

  • When he gets angry, he doesn’t speak to anyone.
  • When we go to France, I would like to visit Paris.

Furthermore, you can use the word “when” in an essay and other types of formal writing.

  • When the two elements are combined, they produce an explosive reaction.
  • When children experience severe trauma, they are more likely to suffer from mental illness than adults.

Finally, you can start questions with “when,” and there is no second clause.

  • When will people take action on climate change?

You may still have doubts about starting sentences with “when.” If so, read on to discover more about using “when” to begin formal and informal sentences.

Can You Start a Sentence With “When” in Formal Writing?

It is common to use “when” to begin sentences in essays and formal writing.

Unless it is a question at the start of a sentence, “when” always creates a dependent clause that another clause must follow.

Below, you can see some examples of “when” in a formal context.

With a dependent clause:

  • When the sea temperature rises by 0.5 degrees, coral reefs suffer from bleaching.

As a question:

  • The ocean is filled with plastic. When will a viable solution be a reality?

Although you can use “when” in formal sentences, here are some synonyms you can use instead of “when.” Due to the diverse meanings of “when,” there is a range of alternatives that vary in meaning.

  • At the time
  • At the moment when
  • During
  • For the period that
  • Once
  • The instant
  • In the event that
  • On the occasion that

Can You Start a Sentence With “When” in Informal Writing?

It is common to start statements and questions with “when” in informal writing.

For example, for questions, it is common to use “when” to ask about time and events.

  • When are you getting married?
  • When are you going to Alaska?

Using “when” in statements creates a dependent clause, and another clause comes after it. Statements that start with “when” can refer to events that occur at a specific moment or habitual events.

  • When we know what the situation is, we will tell you.
  • When I see her, I never know what to say.