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.
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.