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.

up vote 33 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.

  • 11
    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
  • 6
    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
  • 1
    @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

  • 1
    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
  • @EdwinAshworth Well all example sentences I can find of "due to" on google use statements with negation "unemployment will increase due to X" ... I don't think the reasoning stated here is all that incorrect ... "due to" tends to highlight less-desirable qualities whereas "because of" is more neutral. – sova Jul 3 '15 at 0:45
  • It's your first sentence (or rather the implication accompanying it) that causes the problem. Imagine trying to analyse say 'weigh anchor' the same way. Idioms are usually non-compositional (though they may once have been transparent). 'Due to', in spite of the meaning of 'due', is often used interchangeably with 'because of'. Yes, often for 'negative reasons' – but there are 460 000+ Google hits for "due to his kindness", eg "Due to his kindness everybody use to respect him." / 300 000+ for "due to the good weather", eg "It is also a good time to go for hiking trips due to the good weather." – Edwin Ashworth Jul 3 '15 at 8:29
  • And yes, that should be '... used to respect him', but otherwise, I liked this example. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 3 '15 at 9:18

“Due to” implies a result directly attributed to the modified word: “The house was uninhabitable due to the fire.”

“Because of” refers to an action taken as a result of the modified word: “The party will not be held at the uninhabitable house because of the fire.”

In the first example, the fire (due to the fire) actually made the house uninhabitable. In the second, the party was cancelled, not by the fire, but by the host who decided to cancel because of the fire making the house uninhabitable.

The rule about adjective/adverb is completely bogus. The better rule is that if you can substitute the exact phrase "caused by" for "due to," it's defensible. However, it's still almost always unnecessary and bad.

Here's an example from a student paper: "...relationships that almost never last due to the rocky foundations they are formed upon." If "due to" is a prepositional phrase modifying the noun phrase "rocky foundations," what is the object of the preposition "upon"? There is no simplistic grammatical explanation of whether "due to" is correct here or not because the whole sentence is faulty and needlessly backwards and wordy. Much better is a complete revision that is far more direct and clear:

"...relationships that almost never last because they are founded upon rocky foundations."

Here no arguments arise about obscure attributions of adjective vs adverb status--pointless when nouns claimed by other structures abound. The revision is simple, direct and clear, not convoluted and wordy. Correctness is not the real issue; fluidity is.

protected by NVZ Mar 8 at 21:09

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