Giving an adjective its due
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I haven’t posted on this blog for several weeks. And if I can’t write better than that sentence, I shouldn’t be posting at all.
The point is to call your attention to the use, or rather misuse, of due to. It’s one of the most common mistakes in English, even among native speakers. You hear it all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct.
Due is the sense of because is an adjective, not an adverb or a conjunction — which is how it’s generally (mis)used. For example:
The Yankees game was canceled due to rain.
Wrong. Here due to is trying to be an adverb modifying the whole sentence. Correct: The game was canceled because of rain.
The game was canceled due to it was raining.
Very wrong. Here it’s trying to be a conjunction linking two clauses. Instead: The game was canceled because it was raining.
The cancellation was due to rain.
Right! Here due is a predicate adjective, modifying the subject of the sentence (the cancellation).
Now, some examples from student work:
In general prices are rising due to high inflation and tight supply. No, they’re rising because of those factors.
The price will rise due to financial cuts by the government. Again, because of.
(Why is it all right to say because of — conjunction + preposition — but not due to? Because because of has become a compound preposition. Hey, nobody ever said English made sense.)
Think of due in its original sense as something owed — for example, your assignments on deadline. (The word comes from the Anglo-French deu, past participle of dever — to owe — which in turn comes from Latin.) In the headline of this post, it’s a noun meaning just that, something owed. In fact, owing to is another way, if a somewhat old-fashioned one, to say because of when you need to avoid saying due to.
As your writing coach Deborah Stead says in her Usage Handbook: “Don’t follow ‘due to’ with ‘the fact that . . .’ or any clause, for that matter.” I couldn’t have said it better.
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