An excerpt from my grammar lesson:

In a formal context, 'due' should always be treated as an adjective, and 'due to' must therefore follow or refer back to a noun, as in: his success was due to hard work.

In this case, how is 'hard work' considered a noun? In a prior lesson, a noun was defined as a word that names a person, place or thing. by this definition, isn't 'hard work' more appropriate to be a verb?

Am I missing something?

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    Yes, you are missing something! "Hard work" is a noun phrase headed by the common noun "work" which is modified by the adjective "hard". Note that a noun phrase can also consist of a single noun, as in "My favourite food is fish." "Work" is an abstract noun ,as opposed to a concrete noun like "car","house", "gin" and the like.
    – BillJ
    Nov 24, 2023 at 12:47
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    Work is noun or verb. Sadly your definition of noun isn't accurate. Wikipedia's definition is slightly better: "a word that generally functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas" but it's best to think in terms of grammatical categories (a noun is a subject or object of a verb, etc). Don't they have nouns and verbs in your native language, though?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 24, 2023 at 12:51
  • @BillJ - many sources advise that a phrase is 'a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence', The OED 2nd Ed provides 'Applied to a single word. Obs.' with the latest quote dated 1699. Nov 24, 2023 at 14:36
  • Nothing in the explanation says it can't be a noun preceded by an adjective....
    – Lambie
    Nov 24, 2023 at 18:03
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    @Crissy Note also that "due to" is not a phrase. The adjective "due" licenses a to preposition phrase , as in "due to hard work", where "hard work" is a noun phrase (headed by the abstract noun "work") functioning as object of the prep "to".
    – BillJ
    Nov 24, 2023 at 19:35

2 Answers 2


Many regard single word nouns as constituting noun phrases. A problem area is with open compounds, where the debate can become heated. But your worry about 'hard work' would be unfounded were it legitimate:

  • His continued success was due to hard work.

has two noun groups and is uncontroversial.

But note that the rule states

'due to' must therefore follow / refer back to a noun [group; noun / noun phrase]:

it's [his] success that should be being asked about (it's fine).


There is, however, a real problem with the 'rule'. The modern trend is to allow the broader 'because of' sense of 'due to'. Not just the 'caused by' sense, which requires a noun phrase whose referent is the thing caused. From Cambridge Dictionary:

due to [phrase]: because of:

  1. A lot of her unhappiness is due to boredom.
  2. The bus was delayed due to heavy snow.
  3. Regrettably, the service has been dropped due to lack of funding.
  4. The series was cancelled due to poor ratings.
  5. Processing is inevitably slower due to increased security measures.

Only the first example they feel happy to endorse is of the form the 'rule' allows,

                              [Noun Phrase] [form of be] [due to] [Noun Phrase].

The remaining examples, quite idiomatic nowadays, are of the form

                              [Independent clause] [due to] [Noun Phrase].

Those who forbid such sentences are over-prescriptivist.

  • But "due to" is not a phrase. The adjective "due" licenses a to PP, as in the OP's "due to hard work", where "hard work" is an NP (headed by the abstract noun "work") functioning as object of the prep "to".
    – BillJ
    Nov 24, 2023 at 19:09
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    The bracketing is [due + [to + NP]] , where the inner brackets enclose a PP with an NP complement.
    – BillJ
    Nov 24, 2023 at 19:31

A mod seems to have deleted a salient comment I posted when voting to migrate this question from ELU to ELL. Specifically...

"a word that names a person, place or thing" is a proper noun

Proper nouns are always written with an initial capital letter. Some proper nouns can also be used as an "ordinary" noun. So Trump is a proper noun referring to the ex-president, but trump can refer to the "primary" playing card suit in various card games.

Hard work is a noun phrase - a word or group of words that can function as the subject, the object, or the complement in a sentence. The "head" noun there is work, modified by the adjective hard, which gives some more information about the specific work being referenced. Example usage...

1: Being a coal miner is hard work

Note that work can also be used as a verb. And to work hard is a verb phrase where the adverb hard modifies the verb. For example...

2: You have to work hard as a coal miner

  • I can't tell how proper nouns relate to the rest of your answer, or to the question (instead of just ordinary nouns). Could you explain that connection more?
    – Dan Getz
    Nov 24, 2023 at 18:52
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    Proper nouns don;t relate to much about either the question or my answer. The OP was using an inappropriate term, that's all. Nov 24, 2023 at 19:06
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    @PaulTanenbaum: Well, as a general principle I'm not much interested in "the naming of the parts". Nobody taught me anything about parts of speech, clauses, numbered conditionals, etc. - but that didn't stop me getting an honours degree in (English and French) Language and Literature. But the "proper noun" definition in my link was almost word-for-word what OP cited as the definition of a (regular) noun, so it made sense to point that out. Nov 24, 2023 at 19:39
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    @FumbleFingers I'm glad I'm not the only person who types don;t Nov 24, 2023 at 20:17
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    @PaulTanenbaum: e e cummings is unquestionably a proper noun, and there's never been any confusion about the capitalisation there. But anyone who's aware of such "non-compliant outliers" is unlikely to be reading my text here in order to learn what exactly a proper noun is. And if they do need to learn it (as clearly the OP himself here did), it's only sensible that I should mention always capitalised, since that's what my linked definition says (rather gratifyingly, with BrE spelling! :) Nov 24, 2023 at 20:51

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