Ask about usage of "Owing to" and "because of"

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Report 17 years ago
Dear all

I am confusing about the difference between "owing to" and "because of".

For example:

Which one should be inserted here:

Our reply has been postponed_______ the strike.

a. owing to

b. because of

According to the text book, the answer is "b". I wonder why "because of" is correct.

would anyone answer me?

thanks in advance

Yours trully

Report 17 years ago
[email protected] (M_RUDKY) burbled news:[email protected]:

[q1]> Dear all[/q1]
[q1]> I am confusing[/q1]


[q1]> about the difference between "owing to" and "because of".[/q1]
[q1]> For example:[/q1]
[q1]> Which one should be inserted here:[/q1]
[q1]> Our reply has been postponed_______ the strike.[/q1]
[q1]> a. owing to[/q1]
[q1]> b. because of[/q1]
[q1]> According to the text book, the answer is "b". I wonder why "because of" is correct.[/q1]

Native speakers use both, but "owing to" means "because of". There has long been controversy over
the compound prepositions "owing to" and "due to", so I give you the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of
English Usage article on this. A simple answer to your question about why (b) is the answer and not
(a) is that the test maker wants the standard and unpretentious form rather than the fancier form.
It's a matter of style.

due to Concern over the propriety of due to is one of those long-lived controversies in which the
grounds for objection have entirely changed over time. The present-day objection is to due to used
as a preposition in the sense of "owing to" or "because of," but the controversy began in the 18th
century with owing. There were some, apparently, who objected to the use of owing, an "active
participle," in the sense "owed, due," which was held to be proper only for the "passive participle"
owed (or due ). Johnson's Dictionary notes this controversy (under owe ) and comments that Lord
Bolingbroke had been aware of it, and avoided owing by using due in the sense "attributable": "
Bolinbroke [sic] says, the effect is due to the cause." Johnson did not agree; he thought most
writers used due only of debt. Johnson did not enter Bolingbroke's use of due in his first (1755)
edition. He inserted it in a later edition, however, with a quotation from Robert Boyle and the
annotation, "proper, but not usual." Somehow Johnson's comments on due at his entry for owe (or
perhaps just his attitude) were transmitted to American handbooks of the second half of the 19th
century: Bache 1869, Ayres 1881, Compton 1898. The gist of their argument is objection to the use of
due where there is no notion of debt. Johnson's comment was not, however, repeated by Webster 1828.
In the 20th century the grounds of objection change. A few writers- Vizetelly 1906, Josephine Turck
Baker 1927-repeat the 19th-century objection. But with Utter 1916, MacCracken Sandison 1917, Fowler
1926, Krapp 1927, the sense "attributable" is acceptable as long as due is clearly an adjective;
when due to is used as a preposition introducing a phrase that modifies anything but a particular
noun, it is objectionable. A new issue has been born, and subsequent commentators have generally
followed the newer line of attack.

***Owing to and due to developed along precisely parallel lines, according to a detailed study
by John S. Kenyon published in American Speech, October 1930. The difference is that owing to
crept imperceptibly into use as a preposition while the focus of criticism was on the
active-passive issue.***

Due to did not begin life as a preposition until nearly the 20th century (the OED Supplement has an
1897 citation). Once the critics noticed the new use, they laid aside old objections and belabored
due to for its new function. The basic argument is this: due to is all right when it clearly has a
noun or pronoun to modify or when it follows a linking verb: ... a Jonah's gourd, Up in one night,
and due to sudden sun -Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Princess, 1847 (OED) ... the failure to nail
currant jelly to a wall is not due to the nail -Theodore Roosevelt, 1915, quoted by William Safire,
N.Y. Times, 6 Apr. 1986 It must be due to my lack of polish -Robert Frost, letter, 25 Apr. 1915

... its gradual supersession by the less efficient hand-gun of Tudor times appears to have been due
to the village neglect of archery -G. M. Trevelyan, A Shortened History of England, 1942 But when
there is no linking verb, the construction is suspect: Largely due to the literary activities of
Alfred the Great and the political supremacy reached by his kingdom of Wessex ... , the language of
Wessex became accepted as the standard form of the language in literary composition -George H.
McKnight, English Words and Their Background, 1923 Although I myself, due doubtless to defective
skill, have to work pretty hard -George Jean Nathan, Testament of a Critic, 1931 ... Ross is famous
for his old conviction that women do not belong in offices. This has mellowed somewhat, partly due
to his discovery during the war that several of them could be as competent as men -James Thurber,
letter, 6 Sept. 1947 ... the slips were not introduced until the first of May (due to complications
in securing them) -Norman V. McCullough, College English, April 1960 ... there is an outside chance
at least that Ben Reid-due to those considerations of environment and mentality ...-may have his
sentence commuted -William Styron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, 1982 Webster's Second
originally described due as being "often erroneously used in the phrase due to ... in the manner of
a compound preposition," but at the end of the 1940s Merriam editors revised the entry to read:
"Prepositional due to , ... though objected to by some, is in common and reputable use." Since that
time some commentators have agreed that the use is valid, while others have stood by the opinions
of 1916 and 1917. All allow that due to is unobjectionable after the verb to be. But many of those
who admit that prepositional due to is established are quick to put in a disclaimer, such as that
many people object to it or that it is informal. Due to has entered the folklore of usage. Perhaps
it is time for the critics to find a new basis for disparaging due to. A sure sign of the
reflexiveness of the present objections is beginning to appear in careless restatements of them.
Two college handbooks of the 1980s call due to an adjective rather than a preposition, for example.
A general handbook of the same time says that due to is a wordy way of saying because. Because,
however, is a conjunction and due to is a preposition; due to competes with because of. (And what
can wordy mean in this case? Because has the same number of syllables and two more letters than due
to. ) In our judgment, due to is as impeccable grammatically as owing to, which is frequently
recommended as a substitute for it. There never has been a grammatical ground for objection,
although the objection formulated in the early part of this century persists in the minds of some
usage commentators. The preposition is used by reputable writers and is even officially part of the
Queen's English-the OED Supplement gives a quotation from Queen Elizabeth II. There is no solid
reason to avoid using due to.

Franke: "There are no great religions, only great myths and great mistakes." Bodhisattva F. A.
Tchirl. Grammar 1: Internalized rules for the spoken language. Grammar 2: Formal rules for the
written language. Grammar 1 does not equal Grammar 2.
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