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I know that "due to" modifies a noun, and "because of" verbs. However, while searching for explanations and examples, I've come upon this site, where it is said that you can check if the choice is right by moving the phrase directly after the connecting verb, and that "The snowfall was due to the effects of El Nino" is wrong; but how is that? I mean, here "due to" clearly modifies the noun "snowfall", and it follows a form of "to be". Am I missing something?

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    I think you're misunderstanding something. You preface your question by saying that "due to" modifies a noun. You then state, "'The snowfall was due to the effects of El Nino,' is wrong." In that sentence, "effects" is a noun, so "due to" is appropriate. The sentence sounds fine; what's wrong with it? – Paul Rowe Dec 4 '15 at 16:39
  • While I may be misunderstanding something, I'm sure you're misunderstanding me as well. I've said the affirmation that the sentence from above is wrong was made by the source that I posted. That's what I'm asking, why does it say that it is wrong, because to me it looks grammatical. – Antonio Nanu Dec 4 '15 at 16:49
  • Ok. I looked at the site and read the answer more closely. If the sentence read, "The snowfall was due to the effects of El Niño," it would be correct because "due to" is modifying "snowfall". That would indicate that, were there no effects of El Niño, there would be no snowfall. However, the sentence read, "The heavy snowfall was because of the effects of El Niño," since "because of" is modifying "heavy". This indicates that, were there no effects of El Niño, there would still be snowfall, but lighter snowfall. – Paul Rowe Dec 4 '15 at 16:55
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The site is asking you to identify whether an adjectival or adverbial construction is appropriate. It asks you to use "due to" as an adjectival construction and "because of" as an adverbial construction. It then provides you with four test sentences.

  • The heavy snowfall was due to / because of El Niño.
    The construction is modifying "snowfall", a noun; it should be due to, the adjectival construction.
  • The snowfall came due to / because of the effects of El Niño.
    The construction is modifying "came", a verb; it should be because of, the adverbial construction.
  • Due to / Because of the effects of El Niño, the snowfall was heavy.
    The construction is modifying "heavy", an adjective; it should be because of, the adverbial construction.
  • The crash was due to / because of the erratic nature of the other driver.
    The construction is modifying "crash", a noun; it should be due to, the adjectival construction.
  • The crash occurred due to / because of the erratic nature of the other driver.
    The construction is modifying "occurred", a verb; it should be because of, the adverbial construction.

I wrote these answers and then checked the website to make sure it agreed with me (and it did).

Here's a quote from the review on Question 3:

When inclined to use “due to,” move the phrase directly after the connecting verb. If the sentence doesn't read correctly, it's “because of.” Try that with #3: “Due to/because of the effects of El Nino, the snowfall was heavy.” It won't work because the sentence would then read “the snowfall was due to the effects of El Nino heavy.” And that just doesn't make sense.

  • The question has been answered here more than once; 'due to' and 'because of' are considered interchangeable by some / many / most style guides nowadays. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 4 '15 at 17:19
  • Understood. I don't think the OP was asking so much about the rules as he was why the rules didn't seem to match up and the rules didn't seem to match up because he'd left a word out. – Paul Rowe Dec 4 '15 at 17:25
  • It's more important to say that the rule/s is/are inaccurate rather than to try to harmonise them. The simpler traditional rule was "use 'due to' only where it may be replaced by 'caused by' / 'attributable to' [or in the 'due to come etc at ... ' construction]", but as AHDEL says, "the tide has turned toward accepting due to as a full-fledged preposition... the 'adverbial' use of due to (as in was canceled due to the rain) [is now largely accepted]". – Edwin Ashworth Dec 4 '15 at 17:46
  • I see. Thank you for pointing out the priorities. I chose the language of my answer to indicate that this was the site's rules and not necessarily the language's rules, but didn't explicitly state it. – Paul Rowe Dec 4 '15 at 17:53
  • It's a problem that crops up very frequently. Style guides, and especially grammars of dubious pedigree, trot out obsolete / quasi- / parochial / false rules/'rules' as if they were gospel. There are even contentious interpretations in CGEL. // But the 'due to' vs 'because of' issue has been dealt with here at length. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 4 '15 at 18:10

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