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'Due to', 'owing to', on account of' and 'because of'
Sathya Narayanan from India asks:

What is the difference in the usage of owing to and due to?
Roger replies:
Due to and owing to are similar in meaning to on account of and because of. They are all prepositions used with noun phrases and are often used interchangeably. They indicate that something happened as a result of something or introduce the reason for something happening:
  • 'He was kept in after school due to/owing to his bad behaviour.' = He was kept in after school on account of/because of his bad behaviour.

  • 'Due to/owing to a broken propeller, the new cruise liner returned immediately to port.' = 'The new cruise liner returned immediately to port because of/on account of a broken propeller.'

It used to be thought that it was incorrect to use due to in this way, but modern usage shows no hesitation in using these expressions interchangeably.

Note that these prepositions are sometimes used in cleft structures with it and the verb to be:

  • 'It is due to/on account of all his hard work over the winter months that he has passed the exam with such a good grade.'

  • 'It was owing to/because of traffic congestion on the road leading to the airport that I missed my flight.'
The noun phrases which these prepositions introduce are often rather formal and it may be more natural to use because in informal, conversational English. But remember that because is a conjunction and must therefore be used to introduce a subordinate clause of reason:
  • 'We had to give up the idea of a boat trip because it started to pour with rain.'

  • 'Owing to the heavy rain, we had to give up the idea of a boat trip.'
In this final owing to example, there is a mismatch of formal and colloquial styles and it does not sound quite right. In the following examples, however, the prepositional phrase might be preferred as it is more succinct:
  • 'Why are you so late?' 'On account of the traffic. Incredibly heavy!'

  • 'Why are you so late?' 'Because the traffic was so incredibly heavy on the road into London. '