In this edition of Grammar Corner, we discuss some of the most widely used grammar errors in the English language. We don’t just correct you, though; we pinpoint exactly why a particular word/phrase/idiom is used incorrectly, while providing the context for each mistake, and then providing the right word/phrase/idiom.
Most of the time, a grammar error occurs because of homophones. Homophones are two words that sound exactly the same, but mean vastly different things. But it’s not just their meaning that’s different; homophones can also function as vastly different parts of speech.
In this edition, we discuss a common grammar error: do vs. due.
When to Use Do
In the do vs. due argument, always remember: do is a verb, it’s a word that performs an action. In some cases, it’s also an auxiliary verb, often used in interrogatory sentences. For example:
What did you do to make this mess? – Do as an auxiliary verb
Do you have my headphones? –Do as a verb
While the word Do is a verb, it’s also an irregular verb. Irregular verbs are action words that do not adhere to common conjugation rules for other verbs. For example, the present tense conjugations of Do differ from other verbs depending on usage:
- First person singular and plural: I/We do
- Second person singular and plural: You do
- Third person singular: He/She/It does
- Third person plural: They do
The conjugation of Do in the past is also irregular; however, for simple past tense, the conjugation of do is did.
When to Use Due
In the do vs. due argument, always remember: due is an adjective, or a noun, depending on usage.
As a noun, due usually means something that is owed to someone, either as payment or as property of sorts. For example:
Render unto Caesar what is due to Caesar
Hey, you need to pay your Library dues before you can graduate!
When used as a noun, it’s most often used in plural form.
When using Due as an adjective, the word takes on a slightly different meaning. As an adjective, due means an event of sorts that is either expected or planned out. For example:
I’m Caesar, and I’m due some respect!
You missed your late fees payment due date, so I guess you’re not graduating!
Which One To Use: Do To or Due To?
Due To and Do To are commonly confused because of their homophony. As such, it’s easy to make the mistake of using one when you meant the other. For simplicity’s sake, always remember: most of the time, you mean to say DUE TO, and not Do to.
The word Due is used in various phrases, for example:
- In due time
- Due date
- Paying your dues
- Due to unforeseen circumstances
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the words Do and To won’t ever appear together, for example:
- What will you do to change your behavior?
- What can I do to help you with your problem?
In this instance, Do is an auxiliary verb that implies an action.
When Can I Use “Due To”?
The phrase ‘due to’ is almost always used as an adjective. In which case, the word Due means something that you can attribute the subject to, for example:
- Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will have to cancel the event (the word due is attributed to the unforeseen circumstances)
- His absence was due to sickness (the word due is attributed to sickness)
However, in modern usage, the phrase Due to is now being used to mean Because. This is often frowned upon by language prescriptivists who believe that Due to should be restricted to adjectival use for clarity’s sake. In their mind, prescriptivists believe that if you mean to say ‘because’, just use ‘because’! For example, instead of saying:
I was late due to traffic
You should just say:
I was late BECAUSE of traffic
Another phrase that many people mess up is “Due to the fact”. While it can be used, as much as possible, writers should try to avoid it; not only is ‘due to the fact’ long and awkward, a simple ‘due to’ or, if you’re not a prescriptivist, ‘because’, will do just fine and make your writing all the more readable.
Remembering Which Phrase to Use
If you’re grasping for words and trying to figure whether to use Due To or Do To, always remember: you probably mean to say Due To.
Due is an adjective, which means that it’s a word used to enhance a noun. While it’s not technically illegal to use Due to as a synonym for Because, it isn’t encouraged either. When in doubt, use Because.
Do to is not a phrase that you use like Due to. More often than not, it’s in the middle of a sentence and used as a verb; that is, an action word.
Because of these differences, remember that Do to and Due to are NEVER interchangeable; only the latter is correct.