When you give reasons, you are basically responding to 'why'

In speech and in writing, some of us use the phrase “the reason why” to explain or give justification for an action that may have raised questions.

However, this phrase is repetitive. ‘Why’ is considered redundant because its omission cannot alter a sentence in which it is used.

When you give reasons, you are basically responding to ‘why’. On the other hand, ‘why’ seeks to find the ‘reason’; the rationale for certain actions. Thus, one might ask; “Why did Governor Mike Sonko spill the beans on Member of Parliament Ken Okoth’s (now late)secret love affair during the latter’s requiem mass?

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In response, one could say; “The reason Sonko chose to spill the beans is because he was privy to the arrangement”. Nevertheless, if this reply were to be rephrased to; “The reason is because he was privy to the arrangement”; it would be tautological as well.

In this case, ‘reason’ is redundant (“Because he was privy to the arrangement”. If, however, one prefers to use the word ‘reason’, the response should be punctuated to create a pause; “The reason is; he was privy to the arrangement”.

But while ‘reason why’ is tautological, the word ‘reason’ can be used with prepositions ‘with’, ‘for’, and ‘of’.

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Note, however, that the phrase ‘reason of’ should be used only in the context of the formal expression ‘for reasons of’. In this regard, we can say; “For reasons of national security, the Government has proposed all buildings within towns be fitted with CCTV cameras”.

African cultures

‘Reason with’ is a phrasal verb that means ‘trying to persuade another person or people through logical argument’.

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For instance, “the Ken Okoth’s wish to be cremated has generated national discourse whether the practice of cremation is permissible in the context of African cultures that, for millennia, have embraced burial.

“In particular, Okoth’s kin expressed reservations about his will, thus, someone has to reason with them to help them appreciate the positive aspect of cremation.”

The phrase ‘reason for’, though often used to show justification, cause or basis for a deed, can also be used together with a noun phrase. For example, “What is the reason for the delay in disbursing capitation to schools?” or “There were reasons for his long detention”. The dictionary definition of a noun phrase is; a word, or group of words containing a noun functioning in a sentence as subject, object or prepositional object.

We can also use the word ‘reason’ with the infinitive ‘to’. For example, “There is reason to worry about the possibility of the Chinese taking over the country as our new colonial masters”. “Citizens have reason to demand the setting up of functional cancer diagnostic machines in each of the 47 counties”.

Adopted children

The word ‘why’ has several uses in the English language. The most common include; being used to ask questions (Why does a certain MP speak so disrespectfully about the President in public?). It is used to establish reasons for certain actions (Why did he do such a despicable thing?).

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‘Why’ is used to give reasons (He stole my phone. That is why I called the police). ‘Why’ is also used in making suggestions (Why don’t you take a walk to stretch your cramped muscles?) and to show agreement (Why not, I will be more than willing to tag along).

‘Why’ is usable in reported clauses and sometimes on its own. An example of the first case is; “Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu must be wondering why the court barred him from his office” or “ Many still wonder why James chose to stay with adopted children instead of his own son who was born out of wedlock”.

In the second case, we can say, “Governor Mike Sonko does not seem like Woman Representative Esther Passaris, but I cannot tell why”. This last example is a statement, not something reported as in the examples preceding it.

The word ‘why’ is a common fixture in the headlines of our local dailies. Indeed, someone at Media Observer, the media watchdog, has taken note and gave examples of news stories that did not explain the ‘why’ in their headlines.

Verbatim, the Media Observer states; “Why” requires an explanation. When used in a headline, readers expect and should get answers.

It cannot be used as a gimmick to draw in readers. Or a crutch to keep a wobbling story standing”. Why would anybody want to argue with such good reasoning?

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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