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Lack / Lack of

Aim: Many Hong Kong students use 'lack' and 'lack of' wrongly. This exercise is to show the difference and to help you understand which one to use in which situation.

Introduction:
'Lack' is both a verb and a noun. For example, using 'lack' as a verb you can say 'Someone lacks something.', and as a noun 'There is a lack of something.'

Grammar:

Word Part of Speech Example Sentences
lack

lacks

verb -
I/you/we/they lack
he/she/it lacks
singular noun + lacks
uncountable noun + lacks
  • They lack the necessary family support or any other channels where they can seek assistance.
  • Deprived and disadvantaged families lack both knowledge and self-confidence.
  • A child without parents usually lacks a sense of security.
  • The government overall lacks dynamism.
  • It was so interesting to see how Western thinking lacks creativity and is not geared to changes.
lacking adjective
  • Financial backing for the programme is still lacking.
lacking in adjective
  • It was a solidly built vessel but lacking in navigating instruments. (A vessel is a boat or ship.)
    (Grammatical structure: 'lacking in' + noun phrase.)
lacking '_ing' form (present participle)
  • Lacking any filial piety, Prince Richard rebelled against his father. ('filial piety' means 'respect for parents')
    Sentence structure: 'Lacking + noun phrase + comma + clause
lacking '_ing' form
(reduced relative clause: the relative pronoun e.g. 'who' and the verb are missing)
  • Students lacking a dictionary can use an online dictionary.
    (Meaning: Students who are lacking a dictionary can use an online one.)
lacked verb - perfect and past tenses
  • His leadership has lacked imagination and aggression.
  • He said that Hongkong lacked "a long-term authority that  monitors tree-planting efforts".
lack of noun
  • Social workers blame the Government for the severe lack of residential places.
  • There's been a lack of awareness about what young people like.
  • Most landslips are caused not by design deficiencies on slopes, but by a lack of supervision and control.

Examples
Click here to see of these words. Click on the link in the examples to see the full sentence.

 

Exercise
Choose the correct word from the drop-down list:

  1. He criticised the Legal Department claiming it commitment and only paid lip-service to "make it seem as though the department is doing something".

     

    Answer:
    He criticised the Legal Department claiming it lacked commitment and only paid lip-service to "make it seem as though the department is doing something".

    Explanation:
    'The Legal Department' ('it') is the subject of this sentence, and 'commitment' is the object. There should be a verb between them. The verb should be in the past tense because this is reported speech, as shown by the phrase 'he criticised...'.

  2. A child without parents usually a sense of security.

     

    Answer:
    A child without parents usually lacks a sense of security.

    Explanation:

    1. Find the part-of-speech:
      'usually' is an adverb, and adverbs are usually followed by verbs or adjectives, and give more information about them. Adjectives have a form of the verb 'be' e.g. 'is' or 'was', before them, and as this is missing from the sentence, the missing word is not an adjective. So it is probably a verb: lack, lacks, lacking or lacked.
    2. Choose a tense:
      The sentence describes a general rule, guideline or phenomena, something that is true in the past, present or future, so the correct tense is the present simple, so it is 'lack' or lacks'. '
    3. Choose third-person singular or not:
      'A child' is a singular noun, so the verb form that agrees with it is 'lacks'.

     

  3. Neither smoke sensors nor fire sprinklers had been installed due to funds.

     

    Answer:
    Neither smoke sensors nor fire sprinklers had been installed due to a lack of / lack of funds.

    Explanation:
    'due to' is followed by a noun phrase, and both 'a lack of' and  'funds' are nouns. It cannot be 'the lack of' because this topic has not been mentioned before in the sentence.

  4. If Hong Kong people confidence, we businessmen will not be able to invest.

     

    Answer:
    If Hong Kong people lack confidence, we businessmen will not be able to invest.

    Explanation:

    1. Choose a part-of-speech:
      This sentence has 2 clauses, the part before the comma, and the part after it. The 'if' clause is the clause that contains 'if'. 'If' clauses must contain a verb, and 'If', 'Hong Kong', 'people' and 'confidence' are not verbs. Therefore you should choose a verb from the list.
    2. Choose a tense:
      From the grammar rules of 'if' sentences, you know that if the clause without 'if' uses 'will', the 'if' clause should contain a present simple verb form.
    3. Singular or plural?
      As 'people' is plural, 'lacks' is wrong, so 'lack' is the correct answer.

     

  5. Boat people held at Victoria detention centre were in daily utilities.

     

    Answer:
    Boat people held at Victoria detention centre were lacking in daily utilities.

    Explanation:
    'were' is part of the verb 'to be', and is usually followed by a continuous verb or an adjective. The following word is 'in', so the correct answer is 'lacking'.

  6. He criticised any emergency back-up system and said the engineers were too slow to restore the air- conditioning.

     

    Answer:
    He criticised the lack of any emergency back-up system and said the engineers were too slow to restore the air- conditioning.

    Explanation:

    1. Choose a part-of-speech:
      'criticise' is the main verb in this sentence, so the word from the list should not be a verb. There is no form of the verb 'to be', so it's not an adjective. Therefore it's probably a noun.
    2. Choose which noun:
      The following noun phrase describes a specific system, the 'emergency backup system', so 'the lack of' is the correct answer.
  7. Most landslips are caused not by design deficiencies on slopes, but by supervision and control.

     

    Answer:
    Most landslips are caused not by design deficiencies on slopes, but by a lack of supervision and control.

    Explanation:
    This is a parallel sentence structure:
    'Most landslips are caused...' (This introduces the topic of this sentence, and shows that the next part of the sentence will be an analysis of the causes)
        - not by design deficiencies (a noun phrase)
        - but by a lack of supervision (another noun phrase).

  1. Membership of the board completely transparency at the moment since all the board members are appointed.

     

    Answer:
    Membership of the board completely lacks transparency at the moment since all the board members are appointed.

    Explanation:

    1. Choose a part-of-speech:
      'completely' is an adverb, and these describe verbs or adjectives. The clause 'Membership of the board completely ??? transparency' does not have a verb, so the missing word is a verb.
    2. Choose a tense:
      The phrase 'at the moment' shows that this is in the present. Therefore the missing word is 'lack' or 'lacks'.
    3. Singular or plural?
      The main noun in the subject noun phrase is 'Membership', which is singular. Therefore the correct word is 'lacks'.
  2. They also believe he the experience to recognise how decisions will play in the market.

     

    Answer:
    They also believe he lacks the experience to recognise how decisions will play in the market.

    Explanation:

    1. Choose a part-of-speech:
      'he' is a pronoun, and pronouns are often followed by verbs
    2. Choose a tense:
      Things that people believe are usually described in the present tense.
    3. Singular or plural?
      'He' should be followed by 'lacks'.
  3. Social workers blame the Government for the severe residential places, forcing adults to wait for more than a decade for places.

     

    Answer:
    Social workers blame the Government for the severe lack of residential places, forcing adults to wait for more than a decade for places.

    Explanation:
    'the' and an adjective (severe) are part of a noun phrase, so choose 'lack of', as 'the' is already in the sentence.

  4. Correct the mistakes in the following sentences, then click the 'See Answer' buttons to see the correct sentence and an explanation:


  5.  

    Answer:
    The causes include the encouragement of the Government and its lack of management of protective policies.

    Explanation:
    'Lackage' is not an English word. After a possessive pronoun like 'its', use a noun phrase.


  6.  

    Answers:
    It is a quite good idea, since there is a lack of green parks in Hong Kong.

    Explanation:
    After 'there is' use a noun phrase.


  7.  

    Answer:
    The problem of lack of housing can be solved.

    Explanation:
    A problem should be written as a noun phrase: 'lack of housing'.


  8.  

    Answer:
    It showed that the subjects lacked interview techniques, particularly if the interviews were in English.

    Explanation:
    No 'of' after lack as a verb.


  9.  

    Answer:
    Lots of commercial buildings in Hong Kong lack environmental considerations in their design.

    Explanation:
    'Lots of' and buildings' show that the subject of this sentence is plural, so it should be 'lack' (as in 'they lack'), not 'lacks'.


  10.  

    Answer:
    Table 5 summarizes the job-seeking skills, which the subjects felt that they lacked in the course of the job hunting process.

    Explanation:
    No 'of' after lack as a verb.

Your total score is:

 

Last updated on: Thursday, May 30, 2013