Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #164 (Part 2): Lamb’s ‘Tales From Shakespeare’ – Expressing Reason and Result

📘 ‘The King of France … called the Duke of Burgundy in contempt a waterish duke, because his love for this young maid had in a moment run all away like water.

– ​Charles ​and ​Mary Lamb​,​ Tales from Shakespeare ​(1807)​

If you have been reading and understanding these short lessons, chances are that you are already using the most common English word to describe a result, caused by a stated reason – ‘because’.​

As seen in the quoted line above, we know that the word ‘because’ highlights the reason for a particular result:

Reason: ‘because [the Duke of Burgundy’s] love for this young maid [Cordelia] had in a moment run all away like water’

Result: ‘The King of France … called the Duke of Burgundy in contempt [disgust, extreme dislike and disrespect] a waterish duke’

In this second part of Lesson #164, we will draw on Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare to illustrate the three other key words for expressing reasons and results in English – ‘as’, ‘since’, and ‘for’ – which can all be synonyms of ‘because’ depending on the structure of the sentence they are in. We will also learn about the kind of contexts in which you should and shouldn’t use each one of them.

📝 ‘AS’ ​

📘 Then turning to his youngest daughter Cordelia, whom he called his joy, he​ [King Lear]​ asked what she had to say, thinking no doubt that she would glad his ears with the same loving speeches which her sisters had uttered, or rather that her expressions would be so much stronger than theirs, ​​as she had always been his darling, and favoured by him above either of them.

– ​Charles ​and ​Mary Lamb​,​ ​​Tales from Shakespeare ​(emphasis mine)

Now in the above passage, you might think that we can easily substitute ‘because’ in place of the highlighted ‘as’ without changing the meaning. Yes, it is possible! But there is a small, subtle difference between ‘because’ and ‘as’: the difference of emphasis.

‘Because’ emphasises the reason, the cause for something happening. In the above sentence, that reason would be as follows: ​Cordelia had always been King Lear’s favourite child, his ‘darling’.

‘As’ emphasises the result of a particular cause or reasoning. Here in our sample sentence, the result of Cordelia’s being the favourite was that King Lear expected that she would make a loving speech like her sisters had, indeed that her expressions of love would be even stronger than theirs.

Charles and Mary Lamb used ‘as’ in the sentence above because they wanted to emphasise the result more than the reason here: it was more important for them here that their readers would know what King Lear was hoping to hear from Cordelia ​(result) rather than his own reason for it (she was his darling). 


Like ‘as’, ‘since’ can also be a synonym of ‘because’. And again like ‘as’, ‘since’ emphasises the result in a sentence ever so slightly more than the reason for it

📘 And Kent bade farewell to the king, and said, that ​​since he chose to show himself in such fashion, it was but banishment to stay there; and before he went, he recommended Cordelia to the protection of the gods, the maid who had so rightly thought, and so discreetly spoken​ …​

​- ​Charles ​and ​Mary Lamb​,​ ​​Tales from Shakespeare ​(emphasis mine)​

This sample sentence is a little bit more complex than the ones before, partly because of the way the sentence is structured. However, the reason and result within it are as follows:

Result: King Lear’s servant Kent bids farewell (says goodbye to) the king, knowing that he would only experience isolation (banishment) if he stayed with the king. 

Reason: He is taking this action because the king behaved in such a cruel way to Cordelia in front of her sisters and everyone (‘since he chose to show himself in such a fashion’).


This word is less frequently used in spoken English than ‘because’, ‘as’, or ‘since’. ‘For’ in the sense of ‘reason and result’ is a conjunction (rather than a preposition) that is normally found in literary texts or formal situations only

📘 He had been a most faithful counsellor in times past to the king, and he besought him now, that he would see with his eyes (as he had done in many weighty matters), and go by his advice still; and in his best consideration recall this hideous rashness: for he would answer with his life, his judgment that Lear’s youngest daughter did not love him least, nor were those empty-hearted whose low sound gave no token of hollowness.

​​ ​- ​Charles ​and ​Mary Lamb​,​ ​​Tales from Shakespeare ​(emphasis mine)​ 

In closing, here are two tips to help you use these four words appropriately in the future:

✏️ For emphasising the result, reason, or style of speaking/writing: 

If you are in doubt about what to emphasise in sentences like these, you can always substitute ‘because’ in the place of either ‘as’, ‘since’, or ‘for’ to help you differentiate the reason from the result. Then decide for yourself: what would you like to emphasise more? Perhaps ‘because’ might be a perfect fit, but if you want to emphasise the result instead, you could use ‘as’ or ‘since’; or if you want to sound more formal, ‘for’ might do just as well.

✏️ For rearranging the words in a sentence without losing the meaning or desired emphasis: 

You can always reorder the words in a sentence by starting it with ‘because’, ‘as’, or ‘since’ (though not with ‘for’). For example,

– King Lear believed his daughters Goneril and Regan because/as/since they flattered him and told him what he wanted to hear.

Because/as/since Goneril and Regan flattered King Lear and told him what he wanted to hear, he believed them. 

✍️ Notice however that when we begin the sentence with ‘because’ or ‘as’ or ‘since’, we must always add a comma at the end that first clause, which is not needed when ‘because’, ‘as’, or ‘since’ is used in the middle of the sentence. Never forget this comma, as it will make all the difference in your being understood or not!


I hope this lesson has helped you to understand the subtle differences between ‘because’, ‘as’, ‘since’, and ‘for’, and that you will now be more confident in how you use them in your speech and writing. As always, if you would like to review this further, feel free to let me know and we can readily arrange a lesson together. 

by J. E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2023)