“Because Of” and “Due To”

By Guest Author

The saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” is spot on in the case of English language. Today, even native speakers make blunders in written and spoken English, being influenced by current trends. One such trend we are talking about is the misuse of “due to” and “because of.”

Many are of the opinion that both of the pairs refer to the same thing, and that they can be used as synonyms. This is an absolute misconception. They cannot be used interchangeably because they do not belong to the same classification. When the classification is not the same, how can the usage be?

Some native English speakers also claim that a sentence cannot be started with the pair “because of.” However, they are unable to demonstrate the reasons. In some cases, the sentence cannot be started with “because of” whereas in some cases it can.

This is the sole purpose of this post. We will be discussing the legitimate reasons, usage and rules associated with both the word pairs.

The Classification of The Word Groups

In order to get a clear understanding of how to use both the word groups it is imperative to first know their classifications.

“Due to” is an adjective, which means it can only modify pronouns and nouns according to the purest English grammar rules.

“Because of” is an adverb, which means it can only modify verbs, adjectives and clauses, but not nouns and pronouns.

The Explanation

It is quite difficult to grasp the concept outrightly with just categorizing the two word groups. So, it is important to lay down a little explanation along with some examples for you to get a clearer idea. Here are some examples of the usage of both the word groups:

His frustration was due to the mucked up windscreen.
He was frustrated due to the mucked up windscreen.

In general, both of the sentences may sound right to you, but they are not. Carefully look at the first sentence and apply the grammar rule of noun modification. The word “his” is a possessive noun and it is complementing the noun “frustration,” and “was” is there as a linking verb. Now, “due to the mucked up windscreen” itself is an adjectival prepositional phrase which is the complement or the reason being attached to the noun with the help of the linking verb “was.” Therefore, in this case the usage of “due to” is absolutely right because it is fulfilling the purpose of modifying the noun.

Now, take a look at the second and apply the same rule there. The pair “due to” is not connecting nor complementing the noun because the possessive noun “his” has been changed to “he,” which is a pronoun. This way, “he” is not the possessive noun now has become the main subject of the sentence and a pronoun.

The pair “due to” has nothing to modify here because the verb is now “was frustrated” and adjectives cannot modify verbs. Henceforth, to connect a reason or a compliment to this sentence the adverb “because of” should be attached with the reason to make it appropriate. The correct sentence would be:

He was frustrated because of the mucked up windscreen.

As you can see, the pair “because of” is now modifying the verb “was frustrated,” so this sentence is correct now.

Use This Trick When in Doubt

One trick you can use is to substitute “due to” with “caused by.” If the substitution does not work, then you probably shouldn’t use “due to” there. For example:

My low grade was due to lack of study.
My low grade was caused by lack of study.

The substitution works, so “due to” is being used correctly. Here is another example:

I missed the class due to the rain.
I missed the class caused by the rain.

The substitution doesn’t work here, so “due to” shouldn’t be used there. The correct sentence would be:

I missed the class because of the rain.

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41 Responses to ““Because Of” and “Due To””

  • Tony Hearn

    Oh good. A friend in extremis. I thought I was alone in this!

    To be pernicketty, however, [those with a will to live, stop here] is it not stricter to say that in ‘due to’ ‘due’ is an adjective combining with the preposition ‘to’ to introduce an adjectival phrase; while in ‘because of’ ‘because’ is a conjunction combining with the preposition ‘of’ as a prepositional phrase that then introduces an adverbial phrase (i.e. modifying the verb, as you say)?

    You’re absolutely right about the general confusion between these two usages. The problem seems to be no better when the modifying phrase comes first:

    ‘Due to the rain/because of the rain I missed the bus,’ though a moment’s thought shows that ‘due to’ here is wrong, as you explain. The problem here is that it sounds as though the modifier is just an adjectival phrase governing the following noun ‘the rain’, whereas in fact it is an adverbial one modifying the following verb ‘missed’, as in your examples quoted.

  • Steve Hall

    This discussion sounds more than a bit prescriptivist to me.

    While I can understand the rationale, I think I’d be most concerned about the distinction only in formal writing, and almost never (if ever) in speaking.

  • Yanina W

    Just one note:

    -I missed the class due to the rain.
    I messed (typo) the class caused by the rain.-

    I thought the post was very informative. I like the “caused by” strategy.

  • Rebecca

    Thank you for the clarification. Most people would say “due to” when they’re speaking even if “because of” was more appropriate. Unfortunately, most people don’t speak or write proper English.

  • thebluebird11

    @Tony Hearn: I myself am somewhat *persnickety*, but I cannot at all understand what you’re trying to get across! In addition, you should look up the definition of “in extremis,” because I hope your friend is NOT in that condition.
    @Steve Hall: That’s what this web site is about…it is here to tell you the rules. You can then do what you want. Go ahead, be a rebel! When “due to” is incorrect, it is incorrect, no matter the setting.

    For me, the post was way too complicated; I cannot get the hang of all the grammarspeak (in spite of being born and raised in the US, having an English major for a mother, etc). The whole point of the post could have been gotten across, IMHO, with the trick you mentioned at the end, which is EXCELLENT, and should be very helpful to anyone who is unclear on the proper way to use “due to.”

  • Geoffrey Van Wyk

    This is a very good post. Thank you.

    An alternative explanation could be that a synonym for “due to” is “owed to”. If something is due to something else, it is owed to something else. When checking for the correct usage of due to, one could also check it with “owed to”.

    — I missed my class owed to the rain.

    It does not work, therefore due to does not work here either.

    — His frustration was owed to the mucked up windscreen.

    It works, therefore “due to” works as well.

  • Don E

    I’m glad you’ve called attention to this trend–which I blame on broadcasters: “Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to bring you the scheduled program.” To those who choose this usage, “due to” probably sounds more important or official.

    But I too will be persnickety about some phrasing in this post, if only because the Dec. 6 Daily Writing Tip warned us about misplaced modifiers. There’s one in this sentence:

    “’Due to’ is an adjective, which means it can only modify pronouns and nouns according to the purest English grammar rules.”

    Wouldn’t the modifier “only” be better placed adjacent to the words it modifies: “pronouns and nouns”?

  • Rob Poole

    I too found the main body of the discussion to be a bit convoluted, but thought the trick at the end of the article was very helpful.

    I do have one quibble, though. The article claims that “his” is a possessive noun, whereas “he” is a pronoun. I had always been taught that “his” is a personal pronoun or a possessive pronoun, and indeed, I have yet to find a dictionary this morning to classify “his” as a personal noun.

    OK, I have more than one quibble: The following sentence from the article was a real clunker, and should probably be fixed:

    “This way, ‘he’ is not the possessive noun now has become the main subject of the sentence and a pronoun.”

    Shouldn’t there be an “and” between “noun” and “now”? (I almost inserted “that” mentally when I was reading it, making what followed a restrictive clause, but realized that wouldn’t make sense in context.)

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Tony, as you said, the example you gave sounds right, but it’s not.

    @Steve Hall, thebluebird11 expressed my thoughts too.

    @Don E, yes I think only could be placed more efficiently, but that would be a matter of style and preference.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Geoffrey, actually there is a different between those. Check this post: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/owing-to-vs-due-to/

  • Kathryn

    I do not quarrel with the basic point, that “due to” is not interchangeable with “because of.” Quite true, at least in formal speech and writing. Nonetheless:

    “His” is a pronoun, not a noun. All you really needed to say about this was that in the first sentence the subject was “frustration”–which is due to the window problem–but in the second the subject is “he”–and he is not due to anything.

    As Tony points out, “because” is a conjunction. It is not an adverb, despite what Wiktionary may tell you.

    “Henceforth” means “from this time on”; it cannot be used as a substitute for “hence” where the meaning of the latter is “reasoning from this fact.”

    This “current trend,” by the way, was discussed by Fowler/Garner in the Second Edition of “Fowler’s Modern English Usage”–which quotes an entry from Fowler’s original edition–although they address whether “due to” may be used in place of “owing to,” rather than whether it may be used in place of “because of.” DonE may well be correct in surmising that the misuse of “due to” by broadcasters has reinforced the confusion in the popular mind, but it was not the original cause. And, given the age of the error, it is unlikely to be eradicated any time soon, however desirable such eradication might be.

  • Kathryn

    Oh, the agonies of crossing posts! I started composing when DonE’s was the last post showing. Rob Poole, Daniel Scocca–sorry! You said it first and better.

  • Susan

    I admit it! I make these mistakes time to time!

  • Michael Corey

    A good lesson, thanks. Until the last section, however, I found your train of thought hard to grasp. No doubt my difficulty is due to a poor schooling in grammar. (Did I get that right?!) It was just plain absent from my generation’s English programme. In future, and if many others are in the same boat, you might like to put the ‘trick’ ahead of the argument.

    Of course, if I screwed up in that third sentence you may prefer to give up on idiots like me and go to the pub.

  • Stu A

    Well, I thought some true colours were exposed in this ‘tip’, and then I found it was a ‘guest author’: a guest who didn’t bother to explain who makes the rules, whether they’re any use, or even that linguists question whether there’s a real difference between adjectives and adverbs.
    Maybe the guest doesn’t know?

  • Daeng Bo

    What about the difference between “due to” and owing to?”

  • Wakas Mir

    Amazing article, “due to” this one I will write a bit better I hope 🙂

  • Garrison

    I think you will find that the words “caused by” and “because” are actually the same word. The word “because” comes from the French term “par cause, ” which in English was translated as “by cause.” Eventually this has evolved into the word “because.” In Old English (and not so Old English) you will often see the phrase “by cause of,” which later became “because of.”

    The word “due” is a shortening of the word “duty.” Both words derive from the French word “deu,” which means “owe.” All these words derive from the Latin word “debitus” (which means “holding something that belongs to someone else”) from which also comes the words “debt” and debit.”

    In the example, the term “due to” represents a characteristic of the rain, “because” represents the resulting effect.

    “The street is wet due to the rain.”

    “The street is slippery due to the rain.”

    “I am late because of the rain.”

    “I missed the class because of the rain.”

    “Because:” the thing that has been caused. (by cause of)

    “Due:” a characteristic inherent in a thing. (owing to)

    For example:

    “I am hot due to the heat.”

    “I am sweating because of the heat.”

    Great article. This is a perfect example of how the meanings of words and phrases evolve over time as we grow further removed from their origin.

  • Michael

    Once again Garrison me old pear flan you have cleared the murky waters. A grasp on the etymology always helps me understand better.

  • Lauren

    Woohoo, I love the “caused by” trick. That certainly will come in handy while editing. 😉 I wonder if the trick is foolproof, though…

  • thebluebird11

    You know what? I think this whole thing should be ditched. It’s getting murkier the more people dissect each phrase. IMHO, unless something is actually OWED (DUE) TO someone, I propose that we avoid using the phrase “due to.” A library book is due. A bill is due. Money is due. Everything else should be “because of” or maybe “secondary to.” Sidewalks are wet because of rain. You get hot and sweat because it’s 100 degrees outside. You will write better because you will follow rules of grammar. People get frustrated because posts get convoluted.

  • Garrison

    Michael,

    English did not exist as a written language until about 1300. Before that people who spoke English wrote in French or Latin and that is why English has so many words taken from Latin. Our grammar, however, is very much taken from Old Norse, which is why our nouns are gender neutral. Even German early on had male and female nouns, though much less so now.

    In English you say: “do you have a pencil?” The word do, used in that way exists only in English. In any other language you would say “have you a pencil.” That is a hangover from the Old Norse.

    Also, “ing” is an hangover from Old Norse. In English you say: “I am going to church.” In any other language you would say: “I go to church” and the context provides the immediacy of the phrase. That way of distinguishing an immediate action is something our Viking friends, who occupied half of England from the late 700’s to the Norman Conquest in 1066, left us by way of the mixing of Old Norse with the Celtic languages that were being spoken there originally.

    Often we speak of English as a Germanic language because so many English words come for German. However, on a daily basis about 30% of the words used by the Japanese are English and you certainly would not describe Japanese as an English based language. The grammar and sentence construction tell us more about the origin of a language than do the words that make up the language. English grammar is very unique and different from German, French, Spanish, Latin, or any other language. Our grammar seems to come from the Vikings,who, because of their travels needed to be able to relate their adventures in fairly specific terms. This may be why English is one of the most precise languages and allows for so many different kinds of modifiers to create very specific and nuanced meanings.

    Ah, it appears I have rambled on as I am want to do and gotten way off topic. So, adieu . . . adieu . . .

  • thebluebird11

    @Garrison: Nicely said. But please change “want” to “wont” and leave out the “very” in front of “unique.” Thanks from the bottom of my OCD heart and happy new year.

  • Michael

    @Garrison: Ramble away me old fruit leather, ramble away.

  • Garrison

    @thebluebird11,

    Sorry about the “want” instead of “wont.” My problem is that I type faster than I can think so these kind of things come up from time to time. As for the “very,” I do recognize that as poor form that I can most likely attribute to my humble formative years in an unfortunate part of the country where terms like “ain’t” and “irregardless” are all too common. Again, typing outpaces my good judgement.

    My apologies.

  • Rob Poole

    For those who, like me, found the explanation section of this article a bit difficult to follow, I found an alternate article that actually gives what I consider both a clearer and more concise explanation of the difference between “because of” and “due to”:

    http://web.ku.edu/~edit/because.html

    I also discovered a contrary viewpoint at english-test.net which cites Merriam-Webster as well as the OED and claims that the objection to “due to” as an adverbial phrase (or as Fowler put it, a “mere compound preposition”) stems from 18th Century arguments over the proper uses of “owing” and “due”:

    http://www.english-test.net/forum/ftopic3954.html

    I’ll get back to that one in a minute…

    Garrison’s comment is enlightening, and makes me question the utility of the substitution of “caused by” for “due to” when trying to determine whether “due to” is at all appropriate — after all, if “because” and “caused by” are essentially the same, I find it difficult to retain the notion that “because of” and “due to” must be treated differently when I am also told that “caused by” can be freely substituted for “due to” in order to determine which phrase is appropriate.

    (A side note about Norse, German and English: I took German in high school, and Frau Curley was one of those teachers who espoused the notion that English is a Germanic language. While it’s true that German has gendered nouns, especially true of High German as spoken today, it’s the only European language I know of with neuter nouns. Further, the dialect spoken in Northern Germany, Plattdeutsch or Low German, seems to have little or no gender in nouns. It resembles English closely. The Germans themselves are keenly aware of the Norse influence in their language and culture, so I’m certain there’s nothing controversial about suggesting that the linguistic influences were incestuous.)

    Daeng Bo asks the seemingly innocent question: “What about the difference between ‘due to’ and ‘owing to’?”

    It just so happens, that was covered on this site previously, as someone else mentioned previously:

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/owing-to-vs-due-to/

    In that case, the distinction again is one between a phrase-as-adverb (owing to) and a phrase-as-adjective (due to). In the end, the author of that article concludes that the distinction between those phrases is a “dead horse,” and trying to preserve that distinction is “pointless.”

    I want to emphasize that this is exactly the same kind of distinction as between “because of” and “due to.” This sort of inconsistency really pains me. What’s the point of being a prescriptivist if you can’t get the language even decently self-consistent?

    I’d also like to mention at this point that Fowler features prominently in both the “owing to vs. due to” article cited just now, as well as the english-test.net article cited earlier. In both cases, Fowler uses the pejorative “illiterate” to refer to anyone who dares use “due to” as a synonym for either of the other two phrases. I’m personally rankled by Fowler’s tone, but even moreso by the notion that any language must remain static, especially never to be changed by the uncouth people who actually speak it, who use it as a tool in their daily lives. Were that true, we wouldn’t have modern English to begin with.

    It’s enough that I think thebluebird11 may be on to something. I think “due to” is way overused, especially by customer service types working for large faceless corporations and talking heads in news organizations. Perhaps this phrase needs to be ruthlessly extirpated from our lexicons, save for the few cases where the word “due” makes the most sense.

    (Side note: Since I was taken aback by what, to me, seemed an overzealous condemnation of the use of an intensifier in front of “unique” in another comment, I decided to add a comment on my own thoughts on that topic in the appropriate thread. http://www.dailywritingtips.com/less-is-more-when-it-comes-to-unique/ The thoughts aren’t completely crystallized, but it seems to me there’s a need for assigning value to the manner in which something is unique.)

  • thebluebird11

    Rob, you have warmed the cockles of my heart, even if you didn’t like my comment about eliminating the “very” in front of “unique.” I know this is off-topic for this post, but for the record, I didn’t say you couldn’t put ANYTHING in front of “unique”; I just said you shouldn’t put “very.” I think that you are onto something when you mention other modifiers, specifically words like “significantly,” “statistically” or “trivially.” These words indicate TYPE, not DEGREE, of uniqueness (which can’t, by definition, exist), and therefore should be OK in front of “unique.” If you were to turn them from adverbs into adjectives, they would also work (significant uniqueness, statistical uniqueness, trivial uniqueness) whereas “very uniqueness” or “so uniqueness” would NOT work.

    On topic for this post, I very much appreciate your research into the due to/because of issue. As far as your links, I followed them, took the little quiz (oh, how we OCD people love quizzes), and got them all right. You know why? Because somehow the piece managed to cut through the massive amount of fog in my head. So although I will still probably avoid using “due to,” I will toy with it (and check others) by attempting to substitute some other adjective (let’s say, “green,” a word we all recognize as an adjective), and see if it works.
    Per this post’s first examples:
    1. His frustration was due to the mucked up windscreen.
    2. He was frustrated due to the mucked up windscreen.

    In sentence #1, you could say “His frustration was GREEN…” Therefore, you have the “green light” to go ahead and use “due to.”

    In sentence #2, you cannot say “He was frustrated GREEN…” Therefore, you would have to use “because of” (or “secondary to” or something else).

    OK, time for breakfast LOL. Whew!

  • Garrison

    To All:

    In my previous post let us ignore the “very unique” and substitute instead “singular.”

    To Rob Poole:

    Yes, English and German share many similar words and I am sure this is due to the influence of Old Norse on both languages. But, I do not believe that German came first and English was thereby influenced. I suspect that the Old Norse influence moved down from the Scandinavian countries, while Latin moved up from Rome.

    But, English has a unique grammar structure and retains the gender neutral qualities of Old Norse. English never had gendered nouns. I would go so far as to suggest that if one language influenced another, it was English that may have first influenced German. The Vikings appeared in Normandy in 911, after crossing the English Channel but didn’t seem to get down the Rhine until almost 1000, or if they did, they didn’t seem to settle there, no doubt due to Charlemagne’s forces which held most of Europe until about 1000.

    During that 300 year period (790 – 1066) the Vikings and the Celts were co-mingling in what is now England awaiting the Norman invasion of 1066. During that period of relative isolation Old English was being spoken, but not written. After 1066, French became the “Official Language,” though (<— a French word we retain from that time) the groundlings were still speaking Old English. Only Latin was being written in those days as there was no distinct written English or French. In fact, French evolved as a mispronunciation of Latin.

    Finally, around about 1300, it was decided to try to create a written language to match what was being spoken in England at that time and that is when the written English language started to appear. An attempt was made to retain the grammar of what was being spoken, but by then many French and Latin words had become part of the language. So, many of our words come from other languages, but our sentence structure and grammar and things like the "ing" endings have remained similar to Old Norse/Celtic. Thus they are unique to English.

    I hope that my lenghty rambling has elucidated my previous post and further supports my contention that English is a language separate from what we consider the Germanic languages and is in its own way completely unique.

    OK, time for lunch. LOL. Whew!

  • Michael

    @Rob Poole & thebluebird11: Guest Author’s post was hard to grasp, I agree, especially if one didn’t receive a decent education in English grammar, as this one didn’t. The links helped! But I am still a little in the dark. I trust the light will come with practise.

    @Garrison: Just picking up on a few of your contentions:

    The Anglo-Saxon (‘German’) languages arrived in Britain centuries before the Old Norse, though they no doubt influenced and were influenced by each other in their homelands.

    I’m not so sure that the ‘Vikings’ (not really a people, more an action carried out by groups of Danes and Norsemen) were mixing with the ‘Celts’. I’m happy to be corrected but I understood that the Celts–or, more properly, the Romano-Britons speaking Brythonic; though they probably wouldn’t have used any of these terms–had been pushed out of southwest and western England by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. At the very least, their Brythonic language had retreated to the eastern and northern parts of the island. Thus, there was little ‘co-mingling’, at least not of the linguistic kind. (In Ireland and parts of Scotland it was a different case.) Certainly, little more than a handful of Brythonic words survive in English. English does, as you say, retain Germanic sentence structure, but Old English routinely gendered its nouns. You might be right about the Norse influence there.

    Old English was, moreover, written down, albeit nowhere near as frequently as Latin. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Caedmon’s Hymn, the Charter of King Cnut, and Beowulf are all pre-Conquest cases in point.

    I’m not certain how ‘it was decided’ that English should take a written form around 1300. I mean, various people (e.g., Chaucer) decided to write in the vernacular which (yes) was by then an admixture of Norman French and Germanic/Norse English. But I don’t think there was any sort of official decree. Was there? Yes, the translation of religious texts into English would have helped but I thought that didn’t take place until later.

    I’m not convinced that English was ‘isolated’ in the centuries prior to the Conquest, though I acknowledge that you qualified this point with ‘relative’. Latin certainly continued to influence the language after Christianization commenced in the fifth century. England’s ports would have received and sent forth linguistic emissaries of all sorts; soldiers, scholars, merchants and clerics would have gone to and fro. The Channel and the North Sea were not barriers but media, and in the time of Alfred the Great especially, England would have, in a sense, reached out to the continent.

    Your fundamental conclusion might still stand, but I’m not entirely convinced by your arguments.

    OK. I am far, far off topic. Crawling back into my corner now. Time for Brekky!

  • Garrison

    @Micheal,

    Excellent comments on the development of English. Let me just say that I was speaking in generalities and trying to condense hundreds of years history into a few short comments.

    I still contend that the Norsemen had substantial influence over the language from about 800 to 1066.

    During the ninth century, the Danes began a series of major raids on the whole of England. This ended in an agreement which left the Danes in control of half of the country. Alfred the Great eventually fought the Vikings to a standstill at Edington which produced the Treaty of Wedmore in 878 AD. This led to an uneasy peace and the establishment of the Danelaw. The fighting would continue, and in 886 AD, Alfred captured London from the Danes. The name Engla lande (“the land of the Angles”) was used at the end of this century.

    In the early 9th century the Mercia was displaced as the foremost kingdom by Wessex. Later in that century escalating attacks by the Danes culminated in the conquest of the north and east of England, overthrowing the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. Wessex under Alfred the Great was left as the only surviving English kingdom, and under his successors it steadily expanded at the expense of the kingdoms of the Danelaw. This brought about the political unification of England, first accomplished under Athelstan in 927 and definitively established after further conflicts by Eadred in 953. A fresh wave of Scandinavian attacks from the late 10th century ended with the conquest of this united kingdom by Sweyn Forkbeard in 1013 and again by his son Cnut in 1016, turning it into the centre of a short-lived North Sea empire that also included Denmark and Norway. However the native royal dynasty was restored with the accession of Edward the Confessor in 1042.

    A number of Norse words remain in the English language, such as: law, take, cut, anger, wrong, freckle, both, ill, ugly, as well as, the verb form “are”. They also introduced many new names as they founded new settlements with endings such as -scale, -beck, -by, and -fell. One example of a settlement name would be Portinscale or ‘Prostitute’s hut’.

    By 1300, the English that was being spoken was a far cry from the Old English of Beowulf and Caedmon’s Hymn. While there was no official decree, this was a time when a great many schools were springing up in England and there was a resistance to teaching only Latin to school children. By necessity scholars were codifying what we might think of as “Standard English,” which has evolved since that time, but is still the basic English we speak today. It was around 1300 that the language we speak today (more or less) was developing. Granted, spellings were all over the map then and would not be standardized until the printing press came along, but that is a whole different topic.

    As for the Norse peoples and the Romano-Britons co-mingling (and indeed the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) all had cities raided by the Vikings (Danes if you prefer) and became their subjects. There was co-mingling in the Biblical sense and in language. While the Danes lost control of England and I’m sure many of them left, I am equally certain that many remained after the Norman conquest and had become, for all intents and purposes, English.

    I will also grant you that early English was not totally isolated. But the people of the inland regions were fairly isolated and the dialect they were speaking was, even early on, distinct from what was being spoken in the port cities. In those days of limited travel, and virtually no communication, many areas developed their own unique words, phrases, and dialects, some of which can be traced down to the modern day. Furthermore, inland folks were looked down upon by the more worldly port residents, so that people moving to the ports quickly dropped their style of speaking to avoid ridicule.

    But again, I am painting the picture with rather broad strokes, basic trends, and generalities, so I am not speaking of hard and fast rules. The fact is, there are big gaps in our knowledge of those times and most of what we know is an educated guess based on what written documents do survive.

    Yes, we are way off topic. However, how else would we ever learn anything new than to talk about things that are off topic?

    This is a great discussion!

  • perplexed

    I’m sorry, but Mr. Garrison’s ideas seem to contradict a lot of what I’ve ever learnt about languages, Germanic languages in particular.

    Garrison writes:
    “Our grammar, however, is very much taken from Old Norse, which is why our nouns are gender neutral. ”

    I was quite surprised to hear that, but I thought, well, I may’ve majored in linguistics, but I’m from Russia, the country that might’ve fallen behind with research… So I resorted to googling. And lo and behold, check out this Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Norse):

    “Old Norse had three grammatical genders – masculine, feminine or neuter. ”

    Moreover, as a matter of fact, Scandinavian languages still have gendered nouns. Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish… the only Germanic languages I can come up with that have very little if any of this are English and certain regional German/Dutch varieties.

    Well, Swedish gender system consists of a “common” one and a NEUTER one. So, – this is for Mr. Pool – it’s not just German. It’s also Russian, BTW, even though it’s not Germanic, but it’s surely Indo-European.

    Then, Garrison writes:
    “Also, “ing” is an hangover from Old Norse. In English you say: “I am going to church.” In any other language you would say: “I go to church” and the context provides the immediacy of the phrase. ”

    Well English may be the only language I speak that REQUIRES using continuous forms when dealing with processes, but you can very well say, “Estoy tocando el piano” in Spanish, which is EXACTLY the same as “I am playing the piano”. Or, in Finnish, “Kun olin lukemassa tätä keskustelua…” = “As I was reading this discussion…” And Finnish is not even Indo-European (though certainly European and quite heavily influenced by its Scandinavian neighbour, Swedish)

    Thank you for your attention and happy New Year.

  • perplexed

    …and I omitted a comma and thus created “well English”, surely as *obscene word* spoken by the tiny pixie inhabitants of any wishing well all over the world. Woe betide me if I ever drink so much again…
    Don’t party too hard, ladies and gentlemen.

  • otevia

    The ‘trick’ did the trick! But is ‘his’, according to the post, a possessive noun? Can you explain the ‘trick’, please?

  • Rob Scott

    Without getting into nouns, pronouns, verbs and all that jazzle, perhaps simpler rules of thumb.

    Due to – something owed. “$500 is due to me”

    Because of – something which happened as a result of some other thing. “The road was blocked because of rain”.

    Due to should perhaps never be used when describing something that happens as a result of, not because of pronouns and verbs, but because it is the wrong usage of the word “due”. Perhaps.

  • dina

    I’ve always used “due to” and “because of” interchangeably (thinking they are both prepositional phrases), so this was an interesting post. However, I will continue to use the two phrases interchangeably, as I think the English language has adapted to make both acceptable. As you say in your example with the “mucked-up wind screen”, both sentences sound correct to a native speaker, which in my mind makes both sentences correct English regardless of what the original use of “due to” was. Languages, after all, are not static, and this is precisely how they evolve and change over time.

  • James

    After reading through the post, I’m seeing it as this:

    If the ‘stem’ is an independent clause, we may use “because of”:

    e.g. He was frustrated because of the mucked up windscreen.

    (“He was frustrated” stands on its own)

    If the stem is an incomplete sentence, we may use “due to”

    e.g. His frustration was due to the mucked up windscreen.

    (“His frustration was” cannot).

    Oversimplification?

  • Blithe

    I still have a question. You mentioned that sometimes “because of” could start a sentence and sometimes not. Could you make some examples to explain more about this grammar rule?

    Also, after reading this article I suppose that we should never use “due to” to start a sentence, for it’s only an adjective. Am I right about this?

    Thank you for answering.

  • Malory

    “outrightly”?

  • Malory

    “In sentence #1, you could say “His frustration was GREEN…” Therefore, you have the “green light” to go ahead and use “due to.”

    In sentence #2, you cannot say “He was frustrated GREEN…” Therefore, you would have to use “because of” (or “secondary to” or something else).”

    Bluebird, I think I love you. Light dawns on Marblehead — next!

  • Farhad

    This is a great post. Thank you.

  • MarkinTex

    Sorry, but the old claim about due to being only an adjective is like “8 glasses a day” – someone decided that it should be a rule and repeated it without any real reason until a lot of people came to believe it must have been a rule all along. Fowler’s Modern English Usage points out that the objection to “due to” as a compound preposition is “an entirely 20c phenomenon, but it begins to look as if this use of ‘due to’ will form part of the natural language of the 21c” (4). The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style (5) agrees, stating that “The tide has turned toward accepting ‘due to’ as a full-fledged preposition.”

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