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Some dictionaries say "thanks to somebody/something" means "because of someone or something"

Other dictionaries say "thanks to somebody/something" means "words or actions that show that you are grateful to somebody for something"

Say, you are writing a story about a thief. The thief stole some money and he ran into the forest. Luckily, he found an abandoned house in the forest and he was able to rest in there.

This a a bad thief and you the writer don't want to thank him for what he did.

Do we say "Thanks to somebody/something" for negative meanings?

For example, "Thanks to the abandoned house, the thief took shelter in it".

Or "Thanks to the accident, he lost his arm"

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    On the second (Oxford) link, scroll down to definition B. In your example, the writer wouldn't be thanking the thief, but describing his feelings about having found shelter (but it would be more natural to say Thanks to his finding an abandoned house, he was able to have shelter for the night. Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 9:25

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The "negativity" or "positivity" of the result is irrelevant. We can use "thanks to..." for either one. For example:

  • Thanks to the rain, the crops grew.
  • Thanks to the drought, the crops died.
  • Thanks to you, I got the job.
  • Thanks to you, I lost my job.

"Thanks to" in this usage does not express gratitude; it only expresses responsibility for an action.


Your example ("Thanks to the abandoned house, the thief took shelter in it") is not good usage.

If you removed the prepositional phrase "in it" the sentence would at least be grammatically correct but it would still not really be good usage.

This would be better usage:

Due to the rain, the thief took shelter in an abandoned house. Thanks to the house he stayed dry that night.

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  • Do we say "Thanks to the accident, he lost his arm"?
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 2:28
  • No... you could say Due to the accident, he lost his arm and Thanks to the accident, he cannot throw a baseball anymore. I'm trying to come up with a "rule" about which one to use when but I'm drawing a blank, sorry.
    – randomhead
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 2:42
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    I'm OK with saying 'thanks to my drunken brother-in-law, my car is now a wreck'. You could say there is an element of sarcasm. Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 15:40

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