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GMAT Sentence Correction: the “Due To” Mistake

This mistake is astonishingly common in spoken English, even among otherwise well-spoken people.  In the six Sentence Correction practice questions below, all the questions contain “due to.” Where is it used correctly and where is it wrong?

 

1) Elysium Field Construction planned to build a ten-story building the suburban downtown, but due to unstable bedrock in that region, the entire project may have to be canceled.

(A) due to unstable bedrock in that region, the entire project may have to be canceled

(B) the cancellation of the entire project may be brought about, due to unstable bedrock in that region

(C) cancelling the entire project, an unavoidable consequence, because of unstable bedrock in that region

(D) with the unstable bedrock in that region, the entire project is possibly canceled

(E) unstable bedrock in that region may necessitate the cancellation of this entire project.

 

 

2) None of the typical physical properties, such as color, hardness, and melting point, of the element Astatine (At) is known because, due to its high radioactivity, it almost immediate decays into something else.

(A) known because, due to its high radioactivity, it almost immediately decays into something else

(B) known due to the fact that it decays almost immediately into something else because of its high radioactivity

(C) known if, because of its high radioactivity, it almost immediately decays into something else

(D) known: because of its high radioactivity, it almost immediately decays into something else

(E) known: due to its high radioactivity, it almost immediately decays into something else

 

 

3) The motion of the Sun in the sky, as well as the Moon and planets and stars, are because of the rotation of the Earth: everything rises in the East and sets in the West.

(A) are because of

(B) is because of

(C) are caused by

(D) is due to

(E) are due to

 

 

4) According to classical Marxism, the class struggle, caused by economic inequity, bringing about the universal workers’ revolution that would end history.

(A) struggle, caused by economic inequity, bringing about the universal workers’ revolution that would end history

(B) struggle, due to economic inequity, would bring about the universal workers’ revolution, thereby ending history

(C) struggle, which was brought about by economic inequity, causing the universal workers’ revolution that would end history

(D) struggle was because of economic inequity, and it would bring about the universal workers’ revolution and the end of history

(E) struggle was due to economic inequity, bringing about the universal workers’ revolution and ending history

 

 

5) In 1865, the then-revolutionary sound of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde was due to the relative atonality of the so-called “Tristan chord.”

(A) In 1865, the then-revolutionary sound of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde was due to the relative atonality of the so-called “Tristan chord.”

(B) In 1865, Wagner created what was then a revolutionary sound in his opera Tristan und Isolde, this sound caused by the relative atonality of the so-called “Tristan chord.”

(C) In 1865, the relative atonality of the so-called “Tristan chord” was causing the the then-revolutionary sound of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde.

(D) Because of the relative atonality of the so-called “Tristan chord,” Wagner’s 1865 opera, Tristan und Isolde, had a then-revolutionary sound.

(E) The relative atonality of the so-called “Tristan chord” has caused the then-revolutionary sound of Wagner’s 1865 opera Tristan und Isolde.

 

 

6) In the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, the rearguard of the Frankish army, under the command of Roland, was obliterated due to an ambush by the Basque army, an event made famous in La Chanson de Roland.

(A) In the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, the rearguard of the Frankish army, under the command of Roland, was obliterated due to an ambush by the Basque army, an event made famous in La Chanson de Roland

(B) In the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, the Basque army ambushed the Frankish army, the rearguard of the Frankish army, under the command of Roland, was obliterated, and the event was made famous in La Chanson de Roland

(C) La Chanson de Roland made famous the obliteration, due to an ambush by the Basque army, of the rearguard of the Frankish army, under the command of Roland, at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778

(D) In La Chanson de Roland, the Basque army ambushed the rearguard of the Frankish army, under the command of Roland, and obliterated them, and this event was famous at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778

(E) In the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, the rearguard of the Frankish army, under the command of Roland, ambushed and obliterated by the Basque army, an event made famous in La Chanson de Roland

 

Complete explanations will follow this article.

 

The word “due”

The word “due” is an adjective.  Admittedly, it is used rarely in its unadorned form as a noun-modifier, although you may be familiar with the idea of someone performing some task “with due diligence” or a health care professional giving someone “due care and attention.”

Idiomatically, this adjective takes the preposition “to” in an idiom of causality.  To say that “P is due to Q” is to say that Q played some role in causing P.

 

A mistake due to “due to”

The construction “due to” has a meaning quite similar to the meaning of “because of.”  The mistake is to treat the former as if it were identical to the latter. It is not.

The construction “due to” is an adjective that idiomatically takes a prepositional phrase: as an adjective, the word “due” is a noun-modifier and must modify a target noun, according to the rules of noun modifiers.  In particular, it follows the Modifier Touch Rule patterns, typically touching the target noun it  modifies.

By contrast, the construction “because of” is a compound preposition that would open a prepositional phrase.  This prepositional phrase would be a verb modifier.  Remember that verb modifiers target the action of a clause and are much freer in their placement than are noun modifiers: in particular, there is no “touch rule” or anything like this for verb modifiers.  Thus, “because of” can be used correctly just about anywhere in the clause and can directly modify the action of the clause.

The “due to”  mistake is to use “due to” as if it were a verb modifier — as if it could be placed freely and modify the action of a clause.  As a noun modifier, it only can modify nouns.  The construction “due to” can be placed correctly next to a target noun (“The crisis, due to the prime minister’s death, was …”), or it can be used correctly after a form of the verb “to be.” This latter construction is called a predicate adjective, a term you don’t need to know (“The noise is due to traffic“). It is a mistake to use “due to” to modify the action of a clause.

Thus:

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In the above exemplary sentences, only sentence #7 exemplifies the “due to” mistake, because the noun modifier “due to” is attempting to modify the verb “was cancelled.”  Sentence #8 rewrites #7 with the correct verb modifier modifying the verb.

Sentence #9 is a correct construction, using “due to” as a predicate adjective: P is due to Q.

Sentence #10 is funny: the verb modifier “because of” is trying to modify a noun (cancellation) and, thus, the entire sentence sounds awkward.

In #11, the noun modifier “due to rain” correctly modifies the subject, “cancellation.”

In #12, the meaning changes: the verb modifier “because of rain” is modifying the verb, “cost.” This means that the team lost money not simply because the game was cancelled, but specifically because this cancellation was caused by rain. While #12 is 100% grammatically correct, it means something quite different from #11.

The construction “due to” and “because of” are similar in meaning, but it is a mistake to use them as if they were interchangeable.  Such mistakes are sprinkled throughout the practice questions above.

 

Summary

If the article above taught you anything, you may want to look at the questions above again before jumping into the explanations below.  Here’s another practice question:

13) Senator Charles Sumner

Also, check out our idiom flashcards.  I hope your understanding of this topic has deepened because of this blog!!

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Photo by Fab5669

Practice Problem Explanations

1) Choice (A) commits the classic “due to” mistake: the action of being cancelled cannot be modified by a noun modifier.  Choice (A) is incorrect.

In (B), again the noun modifier “due to” is trying to modify the verb “brought about.” Choice (B) is also indirect and awkward, so it is incorrect.

Choice (C) commits the famous missing verb mistake: we have an independent clause, then the word “but,” and we are expecting another full independent clause, but after the word “but” there is no full verb.  Choice (C) is incorrect.

Choice (D) is ambiguous: who or what is “with the unstable bedrock“? The role of this prepositional phrase is not clear.  Also, “is possibly canceled” is an awkward way to convey this idea.  Choice (D) is incorrect.

Choice (E) is not ideal — the phrasing could be more elegant — but it is grammatically and logically correct.  It presents an independent clause that correct states the causal relationship of the ideas.

Choice (E) is the best answer of these five.

 

 

2) A question about the elusive 85th element, Astatine.

Choice (A) commits the classic “due to” mistake: the action of decaying cannot be modified by a noun modifier.  Choice (A) is incorrect.

Choice (B) also commits the classic “due to” mistake: here, the noun modifier cannot modify the action situation of not being known.  Choice (B) is incorrect.

Choice (C) changes the meaning: it is as if the sentence is suggesting that the element has a choice about whether to decay immediately.  This is not the original meaning.  Choice (C) is incorrect.

Choice (D) correctly uses the verb modifier “because of” to modify the verb “decays.”  This is a promising choice.

Choice (E) commits the third “due to” mistake in the problem: once again, the action of decaying cannot be modified by a noun modifier.  Choice (E) is incorrect.

The only possible answer is (D).

 

 

3) Split #1: SVA.  Everything following the words “as well as” is what is called an “additive phrase“: these do not count as part of the subject.  The subject is the singular word “motion,” so the verb must be singular.  Choices (A), (C), and (E) are incorrect.

Split #2: this is the predicate adjective structure: [noun] “is” [adjective].  It is a mistake to put a verb modifier in the place of this adjective.  Choices (A) & (B) make this mistake.  Choices (D) & (E) correctly have a noun modifier after the verb, so these are correct in this regard.  Choice (C) uses a slightly different structure — the passive verb “are caused by” — which could be correct if it didn’t have an agreement problem.

The only possible answer is (D).

 

 

4) Choice (A) commits the famous missing verb mistake: the bonafide subject “class struggle” never gets a bonafide verb, so this is not a complete sentence on its own.  Choice (A) is incorrect.

Choice (B) correctly uses “due to” to modify a noun. This version is grammatically correct and logically clear, and is a promising choice.

Choice (C) also commits the missing verb mistake: we get a complete modifying clause, but the main clause has no verb.  Choice (C) is incorrect.

Choice (D) makes the mistake of using “because of” after a form of the verb “to be.”  The verb modifier cannot be used as a predicate adjective.  Choice (D) is incorrect.

Choice (E) is grammatically correct but a bit awkward.  The “due to” structure in the predicate adjective is 100% correct.  The logical relationship between the “universal worker’s revolution” and the “end of history” is unclear: they are presented side-by-side, as two different things, rather than as logically linked.  Choice (E) is incorrect.

The only possible answer is (B).

Disclaimer: Magoosh, a private company that earns a profit in a free-market economy, clearly does not endorse Marxism.  As a bunch of peaceful Berkeley folks, we certainly don’t want to see any violent revolutions!  Instead, to mitigate a few of the inequities of global capitalism, we offer stratospherically high-quality test prep at acutely affordable prices: that’s our revolution!!  🙂

 

5) A question about Wagner‘s great opera, Tristan und Isolde, and its famous opening chord. (This is one of Mike’s favorite operas!)

Choice (A) is completely correct.  This correctly uses the predicate adjective structure for “due to”: P is due to Q.

Choice (B) is grammatically correct but somewhat indirect and awkward.  It is a much wordier way to convey the idea.  If all the other answers were wrong, this might be acceptable, but this is not as elegant as (A).  Choice (B) is incorrect.

Choice (C) is grammatically correct but the choice of the progressive verb is quite unusual: was the chord causing the revolutionary sound only in 1865? The logical implications of the progressive verb are unclear, and this one seems to depart from the intended meaning.  Choice (C) is incorrect.

Choice (D) is completely correct.  This correctly uses the verb modifier “because of” to modify the action of a verb.

In choice (E), the use of the present perfect tense “has caused” is awkward: it doesn’t logically fit with the rest of the sentence.  It would make sense if the effect occurred today, rather than more than a century ago.  Choice (E) is incorrect.

We must choose between (A) and (D).  (A) is more effective rhetorically: it is elegant and direct — the structure “is due to” is a very clear structure.  In contrast, the main verb of (D) is simply “had.” That’s the heart of the action? Boring! Overall, choice (D) is not bad, but choice (A) is better, and is thus the best choice.

 

 

6) A question about the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, in which the Basque ambushed Charlemagne‘s army.  According to legend, Roland, who died in the ambush, was Charlemagne’s nephew.  The epic poem about the battle, The Song of Roland, is the oldest surviving work of the French chansons de geste.

Choice (A) commits the classic “due to” mistake: the action of being obliterated cannot be modified by a noun modifier.  Choice (A) is incorrect.

Choice (B) commits the mistake of false parallelism: it mechanically puts all the information into parallel, with no regard for logic.  Choice (B) is incorrect.

Choice (C), though not particularly elegant, is grammatically correct.  The noun modifier “due to” correctly modifies a noun.

Choice (D) is grammatically correct but illogical.  It speaks about the action as if it only occurred in the poem, and then was famous at the battle(?).  In the original sentence, the action was the battle!  This scrambles the relationships of the ideas.  Choice (D) is incorrect.

Choice (E) commits the famous missing verb mistake: the “rearguard of the Frankish army” is a bonafide subject, but this is never followed by a bonafide verb, just participles.  This is not a complete sentence.  Choice (E) is incorrect.

Choice (C) is the only possible answer.

 

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2 Responses to GMAT Sentence Correction: the “Due To” Mistake

  1. mir October 31, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    too difficult to solve those question

  2. David October 16, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

    This was my first Magoosh blog, and this is good stuff! Very informative. Can’t wait to read the other blogs as well.


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