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Is it fine to use due to in place of because of ? How about the other way around? Are any of these sentences ungrammatical?

  • He was lost because of the storm.

  • He was lost due to the storm.

  • He lost his way due to the storm.

  • He lost his way because of the storm.

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Yes, one can stand in for the other in most cases. A matter of ear. –  user730 Dec 23 '10 at 11:18
    
Related: Because vs. due to with adjectives. –  tchrist Sep 1 '12 at 21:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

(EDIT: This is a traditional set of rules for "due to" and "because of", but there is disagreement over whether these rules apply to modern English. See further discussion below.)

They are not interchangeable.

He was lost because of the storm. (correct)

*He was lost due to the storm. (incorrect)

*He lost his way due to the storm. (incorrect)

He lost his way because of the storm. (correct)

These examples highlight the difference between "due to" and "because of":

He failed because of bad planning.

His failure was due to bad planning.

In short, "because of" modifies a verb, but "due to" modifies a noun (or pronoun). In common usage, though, you will often hear/see them being used interchangeably. More detail can be found in this article.

EDIT: See also this article, which mentions that

  • "due to" is generally interchangeable with "caused by"
  • "because of" is generally interchangeable with "on account of"

EDIT: Grammar Girl discusses "due to" in an article with references to Strunk & White, Fowler's Modern English Usage, and The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, and my paraphrase of her conclusion is that traditional restrictions on "due to" are being increasingly abandoned by modern style guides and may eventually be abolished altogether.

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4  
I have always found the strictures on the use of "due to" to be contrary to fact (i.e. to what the English language now is) and ignored them. –  Colin Fine Dec 23 '10 at 12:32
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Seems like a prescriptive versus descriptive debate. My ear doesn't take exception to "due to" being used incorrectly. –  Jeff Dec 23 '10 at 13:00
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@Colin @Jeff: Those are interesting points. Languages are alive and constantly change. Since there seems to be some controversy with this usage, maybe a more "authoritative" source ought to be found. (I used scare quotes because it's debatable whether anybody has any real authority over the English language.) –  Mitch Schwartz Dec 23 '10 at 13:06
    
+1 for explaining the answer better –  Rahul Mehta Dec 23 '10 at 17:33

If you consider what the words due to and because of really mean:

due: adjective: owed and payable immediately or on demand.

Thus, your catastrophe was due to bad planning, so you had to pay "bad planning" whatever bill you had, the only currency being catastrophe because bad planning doesn't accept anything else and doesn't give change.

"because of" simply indicates a reason/source.

People feared him because of his angry bouts.

People exist because of the Sun.
People exist because of the Sun's warmth.

Although, when attributing something positive it is more natural to say "Thanks to X" instead of "because of X" unless X was anticipated to be bad and turned out good anyway (where the inflection changes).

A was expected to be bad but turned out good:

I thought I was a goner...but I actually got back home because of X! ("Thanks to" also applicable in same inflexion)

The puppies ran away because of the storm.

The puppies ran away thanks to the storm. ** strange -- were you afraid of puppies so this is a good thing?

The puppies ran away because of the noise caused by the storm

The puppies' running away was due to leaving the gate unlatched * technically grammatical but more difficult to say and is generally unsaid/avoided

The drought was due to (the) lack of water.

That is still a very interesting question

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False reasoning. 'Due to' is usually considered as a unit, in the same way as 'because of', and idioms don't have the same meaning as the sum of their parts. Mitch Schwartz's answer states, in its last paragraph, 'what the [strings] due to and because of really mean [today]'. –  Edwin Ashworth Sep 20 '13 at 23:23

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