a student's abilities.

yuranos

Senior Member
Ukrainian, Russian
Hi there!
Here is the sentence from Longman DCE:
Exam results are not necessarily a true measure of a student's abilities.
Is this article a typo or what?

Thanks in advance!
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    No typo. "A student's abilities" = "the abilities of a student." "A" here means "any given, any one" student.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    It looks fine to me. In fact, leaving it out would be a mistake. (Student's is the singular.)

    Why do you think it is an error?

    Added: Cross-posted with lucas-sp.
     

    yuranos

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian, Russian
    Thanks, guys! I thought that abilities is the noun that is influenced by the article. Student's is possessive and thus I considered it as if it were an adjective or nominative noun. You wouldn't use a with something like measure of his abilities or measure of physical abilities or measure of survival abilities(ok, the last one might sound awkward but I can't come up with anything that would be closer to nominative noun off the top of my head), would you?
     
    Last edited:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, you would say "measure the abilities of a student". However, 'a' goes with student, not abilities, as you now realize.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    We would, in fact, say "an accurate measure of the abilities of a student." When "a student" gets genitivized, it stands in for the definite article, since we're expressing the definitiness of the abilities through another means (tying them solidly to one student).

    Perhaps the confusion is about how "abilities" is plural, in the first place. The point is that any one student has multiple abilities, so "abilities" works as a name for a set (singular) of abilities​ (plural). That's why we use the definite article in this sentence.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Cagey, I see your point with post-genitive case but measure in my initial sentence was a noun.
    Oops, sorry. I should have written:
    "a true measure of the abilities of a student."

    You can see why someone would prefer the possessive to the repeated 'of'.
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    It's possible to use the article a/an with "ability," but not with "abilities."

    Numeracy is an abilityof every student who graduates from this school.
    Numeracy is a necessary abilityfor a student who wants to graduate.
    A written examination is not necessarily a true measure of an ability as a musician.
     

    yuranos

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian, Russian
    Thank you, guys, once again!
    I will ruminate a little bit more on my own about the confusion.
    Fabulist, what point are you trying to make with respect to my initial sentence?
     
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