Because is a conjunction which connects 2 sentences. (Every sentence must have a subject and a verb.)

Because of is a phrasal preposition. A preposition should always be followed by a noun only (not a verb).

The picnic was canceled because it was raining. (“it was raining” is a sentence.)

The picnic was canceled because of the rain. (“rain” is a noun)

In the first sentence, “rain” is being used as a verb. In the second sentence, “rain” is used as a noun.

Because there was traffic, he was late to the party. (“there was traffic” is a sentence.)

Because of the traffic, he was late to the party. (“traffic” is a noun)

In the first sentence, “there was” is added to “traffic” to make a sentence. In the second sentence, only the noun, traffic, is needed.

He couldn’t sleep because the baby was crying. (“the baby was crying” is a sentence)

He couldn’t sleep because of the crying baby. (“baby” is a noun)

In the first sentence, “baby” is the subject and “was crying” is the verb. In the second sentence, “crying” is an adjective modifying the noun “baby.” (“Crying” is a present participle.) There is no verb.

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