Given the sentence,

This exception was thrown __ invalid input.

Which preposition should I use to fill in the blank — because of or due to?

Is either generally preferable for specifying cause or reason?


Very simply, due to modifies nouns and because of modifies verbs. They are not interchangeable, though the perception of due to being 'more intelligent' than because of ensures that plenty of people misuse it - delicious irony!


His failure was due to poor preparation

Here, due to poor preparation is modifying his failure via the linking verb was, so the sentence works. If we change the sentence:

He failed due to poor preparation

Here, due to poor preparation is modifying.... errrrr. There is nothing for it to modify. If we correct the sentence:

He failed because of poor preparation

Now, because of modifies failed and the sentence works.

You will hear some people saying this is prescriptive and old fashioned blah blah blah, but they are simple excusing ignorance by calling it language change. Not knowing an adjective from and adverb is not language change.

Looking at my examples, notice how due to follows was, and because of doesn't? That is one quick and easy indicator that you should be using due to. Another is to substitute caused by.

His failure was caused by poor preparation

is okay, but

*He failed caused by poor preparation


Using your example, substituting caused by gives us

This exception was thrown caused by invalid input.

which doesn't work, nor is there a linking verb, so

This exception was thrown because of invalid input.

Further reading can be found in:

  • The BBC Style Guide - "Due to. This means caused by, not because of".

  • The Telegraph Style Guide - "due to is used adjectivally and, therefore, needs a noun to modify"

  • The Economist Style Guide - "When used to mean caused by, due to must follow a noun, as in The cancellation, due to rain, of... Do not write It was cancelled due to rain. If you mean because of and for some reason are reluctant to say it, you probably want owing to. It was cancelled owing to rain is all right."

  • Elements of Style - "Due to. Incorrectly used for through, because of, or owing to, in adverbial phrases: "He lost the first game, due to carelessness." In correct use related as predicate or as modifier to a particular noun: "This invention is due to Edison;" "losses due to preventable fires.""

  • Kansas University - " The word pairs “because of” and “due to” are not interchangeable. The reason they are not is that they “grew up” differently in the language. “Because of” grew up as an adverb; “due to” grew up as an adjective. Remember that adjectives modify only nouns or pronouns, whereas adverbs usually modify verbs."

  • Great! I suspected as much. Can you suggest some related "further reading"? – Kris Sep 21 '13 at 7:16
  • @RoaringFish Well explained.Thanks for your answer,that's what I was looking for. – devavx Sep 21 '13 at 8:32
  • Well, you can't escape the fact that such a rule is prescriptive! When you suggest that the reason people don't apply the rule is because of not being able to distinguish one part of speech from another, do you actually have evidence for this assertion? When you imply that this rule historically reflected usage, do you have evidence for this? I would posit that it doesn't really matter whether a rule is 'old-fashioned': the question is more whether or not it is actually adopted by respected writers and/or whether it serves a useful purpose. (In both cases, you may find the answer is 'no'...) – Neil Coffey Sep 21 '13 at 9:51
  • N.B. In any case, it's not clear that all prescriptivists advocate such a rule. For example, Fowler's main concern appears to have between 'due to' and 'owing to'-- he for one doesn't really make a song and dance about 'because of' as far as I can see. – Neil Coffey Sep 21 '13 at 9:53
  • @AviralSingh ~ a few 'further reading' links to style guides etc. added. – Roaring Fish Sep 22 '13 at 12:01

Roaring Fish's answer is prescriptivist, and apparently uses only 'selective' (ie not looking at the whole history) prescriptivism.

At http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/give+someone+her+due is found:


11. due to

a. attributable to; ascribable to [I'll add 'caused by']: The delay was due to heavy traffic.

b. because of; owing to: All planes are grounded due to fog.


Usage note

  1. Due to as a prepositional phrase meaning “because of, owing to” has been in use since the 14th century: Due to the sudden rainstorm, the picnic was moved indoors. Some object to this use on the grounds that due is historically an adjective and thus should be used only predicatively in constructions like The delay was due to electrical failure.

And from the related thread here (I've reformatted slightly):

Fowler's Modern English Usage points out that the objection to “due to” as a compound preposition “is an entirely 20th Century phenomenon - but it begins to look as if this use of ‘due to’ will form part of the natural language of the 21st Century” .

The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style agrees, stating that “The tide has turned toward accepting ‘due to’ as a full-fledged preposition.” - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/because-due-to-since-and-as?page=all#sthash.ud7a2XSe.dpuf

(I'd prefer 'and what is more' to the 'but' in the quote from Fowler.)

  • N.B. The prescriptive issue with 'due to' here is essentially to do with its use vs 'owing to', not 'because of'. You mention Fowler, but as far as I can see it's not clear that he had an objection to 'because of' in either usage. – Neil Coffey Sep 21 '13 at 10:05
  • The original Fowler argument is more syntax-orientated: The argument against using due to as a compound preposition is that 'due' is a predicative adjective: Then pay to Caesar what is due to Caesar...(NEB) The train is due (to arrive) at 10.56. and as such cannot stand alone to introduce a clause: The cancellation of the barbecue was due to rain. is acceptable but Due to rain the barbecue was cancelled. should be Owing to rain the barbecue was cancelled.( lavengro.typepad.com/peter_harvey_linguist/2013/05/… the com prep is OK, it can replace 'because of'. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 21 '13 at 16:58
  • I'm perfectly familiar with Fowler's original argument (though it's actually nonsense, of course: there's really no line of logic that precludes a compound preposition based on a predicative adjective [or anything else] from being used to introduce an absolute adverbial to a clause-- that's just something languages do...). But my point is simply that Fowler doesn't actually mention 'because of' and doesn't directly make a comparison between 'due/owing to' and 'because of'; his observations are about the choice between 'due to' and 'owing to'. – Neil Coffey Sep 21 '13 at 17:21
  • @EdwinAshworth ~ you are happy enough to follow prescriptive rules about capital letters, full stops, verb tenses, parenthesis etc. in your post. Can you justify why those prescriptive rules are good but due to being an adjective is bad? Nor do I see anything in your quotes that says it isn't, or in fact anything that contradicts anything I said. – Roaring Fish Sep 22 '13 at 4:50
  • @Roaring Fish : Weight of advice given in style guides. I don't think you'll find any recommendation to change from the style you say I use ('capital letters, full stops, verb tenses, parenthesis etc.') - but there are style guides licensing the growing usage of 'due to' as a compound preposition. In my view, this makes it a descriptive argument you're opposing here. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 22 '13 at 8:52

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