Wednesday, November 20, 2019

“Due to” Explained Again…But Better

As you probably know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, the use of due to instead of because of is one of my grammatical sore points.

The rule is that if you write a sentence that uses the phrase due to but you can substitute the phrase because of and the sentence still makes sense, then due to should go because it is being used incorrectly.

That, to me, is simple enough to understand. But the other day, I found a better explanation that points to the other side of the coin: when it’s actually acceptable to use due to.

If you can substitute caused by and the sentence makes sense, then you can keep due to.

So here are some examples:

  • WRONG: John was absent due to illness. (Because of works here.)
  • RIGHT: John was absent because of illness.
  • WRONG: The victory was bittersweet due to the coach’s death earlier this season. (Because of works here.)
  • RIGHT: The victory was bittersweet because of the coach’s death earlier this season.
  • RIGHT: John’s absence was due to illness. (Caused by works here.)

The formal explanation — the one most people care nothing about — is that due to is only correct when used as an adjective phrase. When used as an adverb phrase, it’s wrong.

In the first example, “John was absent due to illness,” due to modifies the verb was, and when a phrase modifies a verb, it’s an adverb phrase.

In the last example, “John’s absence was due to illness,” due to modifies the noun absence, which makes it an adjective phrase. So it’s accurate.


  1. I’ve never even heard of this particular “grammar pet peeve” before, and I am a pedant of the highest order. For example, one of my pet peeves is the inappropriate use of “is that.”


  2. The “that” vs. “who” problem is another of my pet peeves, Jeff.

    But the “due to” has been on my list since it was nearly beaten into my head by a journalism instructor in high school. I never knew why it bothered him so much, but that didn’t stop the pet peeve from being passed on to me.

  3. Oh, great. Now I’m going to have to check all of my past writings! I probably make that mistake.

    One that really gets on my nerves is people who use “that” instead of “who” when referring to a person. For instance: “Isn’t he the one that wrote the article?” No, he’s the one WHO wrote the article.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.