2

I'm pretty new to this community, so sorry if I do anything wrong. So, I have this sentence:

By the time the rescuers arrived, which took a long time due to the helicopter not being able to lift up, they had only eaten 2 peanuts each.

Is it correct to say the helicopter or the helicopter's ?

What I'm trying to say, is that The rescuers arrived late, because the helicopter was not able to lift up.

People tell me that this sentence is grammatically incorrect, and the correct version is:

By the time the rescuers arrived, which took a long time due to the helicopter was not able to lift up, they had only eaten 2 peanuts each.

I want to know which one of these is correct, and if it's the second one, what's the reason that my sentence is wrong?

3
  • 1
    Use take off instead of lift up. This is used for fixed wing aircraft and for helicopters.
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 14:14
  • Helicopters lift off, not up.
    – Xanne
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 2:56
  • Try either "the helicopter not being able to lift…" or "the helicopter's inability to lift…" and either way, you'll prolly do better with "lift" than "lift off." Test that by comparing "the car's ability to drive (off…") or "the ship's ability to sail (off…") Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 19:34

5 Answers 5

1

As this answer says, the second version is wrong. It would also be wrong to use the first, because it has problems which you can avoid by recasting part of it.

One problem is not related to the use of "due to". Consider this extract:

By the time the rescuers arrived, which took a long time, they had only eaten 2 peanuts each.

The time the rescuers arrived didn't take a long time --- that's absurd. Perhaps the rescuers' journey took a ling time; perhaps the rescuers departed late. Anyway, the last clause indicates that the pertinent matter is the time the rescuers arrived. So let's recast:

By the time the rescuers arrived, which was late, they had only eaten 2 peanuts each.

Someone who knows more about the story might be able to do better, but this is the best I can do with the information in the OP. The pronoun "they" also needs clarifying. Obviously the parsimonious peanut-eaters are the people rescued, but the sentence makes it refer to the rescuers. So the peanut-eaters need an explicit mention here.

Now let's deal with the "due to" phrase. You could say that the rescuers' late arrival was due to the helicopter problem. The sentence as I recast it mentions the late arrival time but not the late arrival itself. But we don't have to use "due to". we can link clauses in a different way, thus:

By the time the rescuers arrived, which was late because the helicopter was unable to take off, they had only eaten 2 peanuts each.

Using "due to" entails saying something like this:

The rescuers' late arrival was due to the helicopter being unable to take off.

This can't be fitted elegantly into a matrix of the form "By the time X happened, Y had happened". This is the best I can do, working with the added constraint to keep the punchline last:

By the time the rescuers arrived (their late arrival being due to the helicopter being unable to take off), N and N had only eaten 2 peanuts each.

3

In 19th century formal grammar, you would have had to say

due to the helicopter's not being able to lift up ...

Today, that is the more formal and less common version, and the more usual version is

due to the helicopter not being able to lift up ...

Both versions are perfectly fine, although for the most formal writing, it's possible you want to use the possessive version.

The "correct version" people told you to use is wrong. Possibly what they were telling you to use is

due to the fact that the helicopter was not able to lift up ...

Personally, I dislike the phrase "the fact that" and try to avoid it when I can (although sometimes it is necessary because of grammar).

Finally, "lift up" is not a very idiomatic phrase here, even though it's grammatically correct. I would suggest using either "take off" or "gain altitude", depending on the meaning.

1
  • Thanks for your answer. Yeah, that is what I also thought. Also, thanks for your word recommendation, take off is indeed better than lift up Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 16:29
1

Actually, the first sentence (yours) is completely correct, grammatically. Honestly I don't know much about how exactly grammar works but why I feel this is correct is because "not being able to lift up" is not a helicopter's property or something. If you want to use "helicopter's" you can say "due to the helicopter's weakness in lifting up". again, I'm not sure if this is correct or not since I'm not an English native speaker.

1
  • 1
    The supposedly 'correct' version is definitely wrong! You could say 'due to the fact that the helicopter was not able to lift up'. Due to must be followed by a noun or noun phrase. As to the use of the possessive, see this question Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 14:10
0

Technically, the correct way to use the "due to" phrase calls for the possessive; i.e., "due to the helicopter's being unable..." or (BETTER), "due to the helicopter's inability to take off." And the "only" is misplaced; that should be "N and N had eaten only two peanuts each.

2
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 0:24
  • The ACC-ing construction is nowadays just as acceptable as (and probably more idiomatic than) the POSS-ing construction, as Peter says above. Commented Jun 29 at 13:29
0

The object of "due to" is a {something}, something "nominal" or noun-like, and if {something} needs to be expressed as a clause because it's not a simple object as in "due to a flat tire" but is a circumstance like "due to Santa's reindeers refusing to fly", the verb in the clause expressing the circumstance must be an -ing form, a gerund/participle, like "refusing".

The possessive form is grammatical as is the complement form:

... due to Santa's reindeer's refusing to fly

... due to Santa's reindeer refusing to fly

The complement form was said to be incorrect for a long time, until late in the 20th century by authors of books on usage, but it is well-established in speech and is not considered a non-standard form nowadays. If anything, the possessive version is regarded by many as a stilted form nowadays.

P.S. When I was in college back in the 20th century, a history teacher (Oxford-trained) called me out for using "due to" in that manner. "Due to" was frowned on by usage-mavens, who said it should be "because of".

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.