Author Topic: Usage of "due to" and "because of"  (Read 7898 times)

Justine A.

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Usage of "due to" and "because of"
« on: May 28, 2010, 10:33:50 AM »
Sir, what is the correct usage of due to and because of? This question has  baffled me several times.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2014, 07:12:09 AM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Usage of "due to" and "because of"
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2010, 09:06:40 AM »
You are not alone in being baffled by the usage of “due to” and “because of.” A lot of people use these two prepositional forms interchangeably, thinking that they mean exactly the same. Well, sometimes they do, but you’ll know it when they don’t because of the awkward sound of the sentence. Now let me restate that sentence, this time using “due to,” to illustrate my point: Well, sometimes they do, but you’ll know it when they don’t due to the awkward sound of the sentence. See and feel the difference between the two sentences? The first, which uses “because of,” looks and sounds OK; the second, which uses “due to,” reads and sounds badly. Indeed, in the second sentence, the syntax of the phrase “when they don’t due to” is simply awful; I would even say that, if not totally wrong, such phrasing is grammatically and semantically suspicious. But the big question, of course, is “Why?”

Let’s begin with the definitions of these two prepositional forms.

“Due to” means “as a result of,” as in this sentence: “Due to inclement weather, the concert at the park was cancelled.” In this sentence, “due to” means exactly the same—well, almost—as “because of.” This can clearly be seen in the following versions of that sentence where “due to” has been replaced with “because of”: “Because of inclement weather, the concert at the park was cancelled.” “The concert at the park was cancelled because of inclement weather.”

On the other hand, “because of” means “by reason of” or “on account of.” The “on account of” sense of “because of” is clearly the same as that of “due to” in the sentence we took up as an example above: “Because of inclement weather, the concert at the park was cancelled.” However, the “by reason of” sense of “because of” doesn’t seem to work in that sentence; we don’t normally say “By reason of inclement weather, the concert at the park was cancelled” or “The concert at the park was cancelled by reason of inclement weather.” This is because these two statements, aside from being awkward to say, give the distinctly wrong impression that the cancellation of the concert at the park was a direct result of the inclement weather. This isn’t the case, of course; the cancellation was only an indirect consequence of the inclement weather. The cancellation was a human decision prompted by the inclement weather; indeed, the concert could very well have been held despite the inclement weather.

We can probably draw this general rule from the above discussions: The prepositions “due to” and “because of” mean the same and can be used interchangeably only if a consequent action is not the direct result of another action or event but only an indirect consequence of it, as we have already shown above. On the other hand, if the outcome is the direct result of a certain action or process, “because of” is the semantically appropriate prepositional form to use, as in “The offshore drilling rig was destroyed because of an explosion in the oil well.” (The explosion directly caused the destruction of the drilling rig.) In cases like this, using “due to” doesn’t work as well from a semantic standpoint: “The offshore drilling rig was destroyed due to an explosion in the oil well.” (This construction gives the impression that instead of the explosion directly destroying the drilling rig, there might have been other consequent actions or events after the explosion that led to the destruction of the drilling rig.) In this sense, “due to” and “because of” are clearly no longer interchangeable.

Having said that, I would like to cite another interesting prescription for using “due to” and “because of,” this time from the standpoint of syntax. I am quoting verbatim below the explanation by Kelli Trungale in “Grammatically Correct,” a weekly grammar tip created by Academic Center Peer Writing Tutors of the University of Houston-Victoria in Texas:

Quote
When to use: “Due to” versus “because of”

Due to and because of are often used interchangeably in both written and spoken language. However, these two phrases have different meanings; thus, they are not interchangeable.

Due to is an adjectival prepositional phrase, meaning it modifies a noun. It is commonly preceded by a form of the verb “to be” (“be,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” etc.). Because it follows a “be” verb, it is considered a subject complement: It modifies the subject of the sentence.

Ex: Jeff Gordon’s loss was due to a broken tie rod.

In the above example, the adjectival prepositional phrase “due to a broken tie rod” follows “was” (a form of the verb “to be”) and modifies the subject of the sentence: “Jeff Gordon’s loss.”

Because of is an adverbial prepositional phrase, meaning it modifies a verb. It usually answers the question, “Why?”

Ex: Jeff Gordon lost because of a broken tie rod.

The adverbial prepositional phrase “because of a broken tie rod,” as seen in this example, answers the question, “Why did Jeff Gordon lose?”

Kelli Trungale then gives the following exercises to test our understanding of the proper choice between “due to” and “because of”:

Quote
Test Your Knowledge
1. George said that Lennie’s problems were (due to/because of) a childhood injury.
2. Julia became ill (due to/because of) the high pollen count.
3. The debate team won (due to/because of) their dedication and hard work.

Answers:
1. George said that Lennie’s problems were due to a childhood injury.
2. Julia became ill because of the high pollen count.
3. The debate team won because of their dedication and hard work.

As an additional test, you may want to check out Kelli Trungale’s answers against the general rule I proposed earlier for the interchangeability or non-interchangeability of “due to” and “because of.” Doing so may take some mildly strenuous mental exercise, but I’m sure you’ll get a deeper insight about the usage of these two slippery prepositional forms.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2014, 07:12:24 AM by Joe Carillo »

Justine A.

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Re: Usage of "due to" and "because of"
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2010, 09:39:26 AM »
Thank you for a very comprehensive explanations on the use of these confusing words. I hope this will work a lot. :) :)
« Last Edit: February 23, 2014, 07:12:50 AM by Joe Carillo »