Lose to a fire?

“Dreiser was born in 1871 into a large family whose fortunes had in the recent past taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Before Theodore’s birth, his father had built up a successful factory business only to lose it to a fire”.

Well said!

In what instances can we use this “lose to”?

In the above passage I believe narrator purposly used “lost to a fire” instead of a weaker one “was lost in a fire”.

I have recently read an article about the methods of irrigation:“Sprinkler systems are a more efficient type of surface irrigation, but they also lose water to evaporation”.

Somehow, I would not use “lose water to evaporation in this sentence”. For me it does not seem right.

Can we say e.g." His fortune was lost to a gambling"?

What is the difference between" Lost in a fire and lost to a fire.

Please, please provide as many examples as possible.

Thank you so much.

1…‘lost to a fire’ and ‘lost in a fire’ can mean exactly the same thing, which is that something was ‘destroyed by’ or ‘destroyed in’ a fire. ‘lost to’ is not weaker or stronger than ‘lost in’.
‘lost in a fire’ can have a meaning different than ‘destroyed in a fire’; it can mean that there is a fire around you and you don’t know where you and you don’t know how to get out.

2…There is no problem with ‘lose water to evaporation’; it is good English.

3…‘His fortune was lost to a gambling’ is bad English. You can say:
a) ‘‘His fortune was ‘lost to’ or ‘lost in’ a gambling casino.’’ or “He lost his fortune ‘in’ or ‘to’ a gambling casino.”
b) “His fortune was lost to gamblers.” or “He lost his fortune to gamblers.”
c) “His fortune was lost by gambling.” or “He lost his fortune by gambling.”
d) Some people might say "His fortune was lost to gambling.’’ or “He lost his fortune to gambling.” but I don’t like that very much. I prefer ‘by gambling’.


The preposition ‘to’ in your examples gives the idea of as a result of or owing to.


Hi Alan,

Do you think the author of the above text purposly used “lost to” instead of “lost in” to tell us what happened with the business? Do you think that it would have been weaker if he had used “lost in a fire” as opposed to “lost to a fire” in this context?

Could you please think of other examples.

Thank you


‘To’ in this sense simply explains the result and not the circumstances.