Due to, because of–when do you use each?

“Due to” and “because of”–are they interchangeable?  Or are they used in particular situations?  Does it matter?

EPSON MFP image

These phrases have similar meanings, but they are not interchangeable.  If you are taking the SAT or ACT, it matters because sometimes there is a question testing you on these phrases.  If you are a student writing for a stickler of a grammarian, it matters because you might lose credit if you misuse these phrases.  If you are someone like me who writes a blog or edits a newsletter or reports for a newspaper, it can matter if your readers discern that you don’t know the proper use of these phrases.

“Due to” should be used as an adjective after a linking verb. 

“Because of” should be used as an adverb and should not follow a linking verb.

Good:  My swollen ankle is due to a tumble I took today.

Bad:  My swollen ankle is because of a tumble I took today.

Good:  Because of a fall, my ankle is swollen.

Bad:  Due to a fall, my ankle is swollen.

 

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