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

  • Jim

    My English teacher back in College (in the UK) said it best (in my opinion); “The ship was due to arrive by 6pm” or “the train is due to depart at 2pm” are correct sentances. Much like “The rent is due to be paid” – Things that are due/expected can be “due to”.

    Never use in place of “because of” as it simply causes the appearence that one lacks the proper command of English to articulate it correctly (amongst those who do, whom also see it’s usage as a flag for ignorance. Ignorance is indeed becoming increasingly prevalent hence the misuse proportionately becoming so common)

  • 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.”

  • Farhad

    This is a great post. Thank you.

  • 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!

  • Malory

    “outrightly”?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • otevia

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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