The word "due" is a funny little thing.  The etymology is that the Latin debere produced the Anglo-French dever which has the participle form deu.  In effect, English borrows (or has stolen) this participle without regard to the rest of the French verb.* 

This answer to an ELL question states that the construction "due to" is best understood as a compound preposition.  I am not sure whether that is the case, and, even if it is, that doesn't directly address how best to understand the word "due" on its own. 

Since it comes from a participle, it would be easy to assume that it remains a participle.  However, we're all familiar with the phrase etymological fallacy.  It might well have started its career in English as a defective verb with only a single participle form, but that wouldn't count as evidence that it remains so. 

My question is simple:  To what grammatical category or categories should I assign the word "due".  I don't think I'm confused about the word's use or its semantics.  I am only trying to determine whether there is a better way to regard this word's grammatical form and function in English than to simply retain a label that happens to make sense in reference to its origin. 

My reason for asking is also simple.  The phrase in question in the ELL posting is "compared to the DART model".  Immediately following is "due to the imprecise modeling".  My initial reaction was "aha, those are both participial phrases".  I only checked the derivation of "due" after having that reaction and realizing that the base form of the verb seems to be missing. 

I intend to post my own answer to this question so that the merits of each may be regarded separately.  If my question seems incomplete, consider my attempted answer as a supplement. 


* Some regard for the root exists.  English also obtained the verb "to debit" from Latin, although I couldn't say whether the verb debere or the noun debitum deserves more credit.  I mention this only because it does not matter.  Whatever "due" is, it is not a synonym for the participle "debited". 

2 Answers 2


If it is a participle, then it should behave like a participle. 

As verb forms, participles license arguments and adjuncts. 

Consider these examples: 

1) He receives no respect due his status. 
2) He receives no respect due to his status. 

Example 1) resembles a participle with an argument.  Example 2) resembles a participle with an adjunct.  Argument and adjunct have different relationships to the verb, as demonstrated by the different implications of each sentence.  In example 1), his status requires respect, but the requirement is not fulfilled.  In example 2), his status requires a lack of respect, and that requirement is fulfilled. 

This differs from the way adjectives behave.  Although example 2) vaguely resembles an adjective with a modifier (say, "happy with his status"), example 1) doesn't resemble an adjective.  The simple noun phrase "his status" does not make sense as a modifier of an adjective.  "His status" could be an object, but adjectives don't take objects. 

This also differs from the way that prepositions behave.  Although example 2) resembles a preposition with an object (say, "for his status"), example 1) has no suitable object. 

Several resolutions to this dilemma are possible.  The word "due" might be an adjective in some cases but a preposition in others.  It might be a preposition that is transitive in some cases but intransitive in others.  It might be a participle. 

Given a choice between using one label to explain the word's behavior and using a collection of labels that are assigned on a case-by-case basis, a single label is the better choice.  As long as participle remains a viable candidate, we can avoid the messiness of having different labels for different use cases. 

If "due" is sometimes an intransitive preposition, then we would expect the bare intransitive case to follow a noun that it modifies.  However, common phrases like "all due respect" and "due diligence" show a different pattern.  They show the same word placement that we see with other participles: "all required respect" and "required diligence", for example.  As long as participle remains a viable candidate, it remains a better fit than preposition

Assuming that participle is a viable candidate at all, it seems to be the front-runner.


Participles are used in passive voice constructions and perfect aspect constructions. 

This is where I have a problem.  Although the construction "this is due" works, the construction "this has due" fails. 

Calling "due" a participle forces me to accept a strange lexical gap.  However, it wouldn't be the only such gap that must be acknowledged.  Defective verbs do exist in English.  Several auxiliaries lack non-finite forms.  A lack of finite forms can be surprising and rare without being impossible. 

Unfortunately, I cannot examine why "this has due" fails without access to the base form of the verb.  It seems possible that "this has due" is senseless only because "this deves*" and "this deved*" don't exist.  If this strange, defective verb lacks finite forms, that implies that it may entirely lack the active voice. 

I have not yet stumbled upon a use case for this word that cannot be explained by using the label participle.  I have stumbled upon a use case for participles that cannot be formed with the word "due".  The best description I have for this situation is that "due" is a defective verb that lacks any active voice form. 

I'm faced with two pills, and each is hard to swallow.  I find the defective verb to be smaller and less jagged than a haphazard bunch of otherwise unrelated parts of speech. 

The word "due" is best understood as an unusual example of the so-called past participle.  This funny little word is a verb that lacks a base form, the entire active voice conjugation, the infinitive, the gerund and the so-called present participle. 


* It is easy enough to imagine a placeholder like "to deve".  It is not quite as easy to be confident that the imaginary behavior of an imaginary verb reflects anything useful about reality. 

  • Excellent answer. Thank you. A bit of noodling around in the OED leads me to believe that we don't have imagine a placeholder. It's the Old French verb devoir, to owe, which had past participle " later dû", which came into Middle English as due. The word had a short life as a verb, which the OED calls obsolete and rare meaning "to be due, to fall due, to be proper or fit", with one citation from 1603: "Which when him deweth, Fethers he meweth" (When it's the right time, "he" -- presumably an avian he -- moults.)
    – deadrat
    Nov 21, 2015 at 5:08
  • Devoir came into the language as a noun meaning money owed (first citation 1360, along with a bevy of spellings with slightly different usages, all suggesting an obligation. One of those has a cite as late as 1880. There is verb by the same name (also obsolete and rare), meaning to endeavor with one cite from 1530 ("I shall devoyre my selfe to the best that I maye"). But the OED says that verb came from the noun of the same name, not independently from the Old French verb. Why did the noun flourish and the verb leave us only its participle? A mystery.
    – deadrat
    Nov 21, 2015 at 5:24

It’s not analysed as a participle today. In the kinds of context you're talking about, "due" belongs to two categories: adjective and preposition. It is straightforwardly an adjective when used as an attributive modifier (the due sum, with due diligence, pay them due respect), and when used predicatively with either no complement (the rent is now due) or an infinitival complement (We are due to arrive shortly). The adjective also licenses an NP or to phrase complement, while "due" as a preposition takes an obligatory to phrase:

We are [due a refund of about fifty dollars]. [adj + NP comp]

Sincere thanks are [due to all those who gave so generously]. [adj + PP comp]

[Due to the rain], the match was cancelled. [prep + PP comp]

  • Adjectives may be more obviously participles ("the hated man") but such participial adjectives are still adjectives. But it may well be that due is a participial adjective from a defective verb, as @deadrat implies in comments on another answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 21, 2015 at 10:53
  • Andrew Leach♦ It's interesting that "due" can also be a noun in "Give him his due" and an adverb (meaning 'exactly') in "You should head due east".
    – BillJ
    Nov 21, 2015 at 11:10
  • This hodge-podge approach can work -- call it an adjective here, an adverb there, a preposition somewhere else, perhaps a pronoun on special occasions. My attempt at answering my own question acknowledges that. If this haphazard collection of several parts of speech is, in fact, the better way to analyze this word, I still have to ask why and how it is better. As far as I can tell, participles and their phrases already fulfill the same wide range of roles as the hodge-podge. Nov 21, 2015 at 19:34
  • Gary Botnovcan - Look at the functions. That, as is the case with all words, is what determines the category a word belongs to. "Due" has several distinctly different functions, and hence must belong to several different categories.
    – BillJ
    Nov 21, 2015 at 20:16
  • If I talk about the examples given in your answer, do you not consider this use of "given" a participle? It matches exactly the function that you claim requires the label adjective. Nov 21, 2015 at 21:50

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