Lack of rain causes famine

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magic dragon feeders

Senior Member
Japanese
I'd appreciate it if someone would answer my question. Thank you in advance.

A: Lack of rain causes famine in most countries in Africa. (partially cited from google)

I'd like to know the reason for not using articles before "lack".

I think it's because "lack of rain" here is a state, and isn't regarded as one-time event, so "a lack of rain" is wrong.

And because "lack of rain" here is not a specific one, so "the lack of rain" is wrong.

From these it follows that a zero article is used. Am I right?

And I think "lack of rain" here is too highly conceptualized for any article to be used.
Right?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In the sentence, "lack" is used uncountably: it is a general lack because a general point is being made.

    "The lack of rain" could also be used, as "lack" is specified by "of rain", but this would usually (but not always) be used if there were lacks of other essentials.

    A lack (countable = one example of a lack) of rain can be used but this would usually be followed by "A lack of rain would cause famine..." or "A lack of rain has, in the past, caused famine..."
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am not sure about your "state" explanation, but "lack" here is uncountable because it is referring to a general situation rather than specific instances. You are right that because it is not a specific instance that "the" is not used. No article is common with general truths, although there are numerous exceptions such as with countable nouns, situations where "the" is idiomatic ("the sky is blue") or where "the" refers to a representative example ("the elephant is the largest land mammal").
     

    magic dragon feeders

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you PaulQ.

    You said, "The lack of rain" could also be used, as "lack" is specified by "of rain", but this would usually (but not always) be used if there were lacks of other essentials.

    I made an example using "the lack of rain" by reference to your explanation.
    Is my example (B) right?

    B: In northern Africa In 1980's, there were lacks of rain, effective fertilizers and skillful farmers. Above all, the lack of rain was the greatest factor causing famine.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    B: In northern Africa In 1980's, there were lacks of rain,
    That is grammatically correct but, idiomatically, we would not express it in that form:
    B: In northern Africa In 1980's, there was a lack of rain, effective fertilizers and skillful farmers. There is only one lack and it occurred in (= during) the 1980s -> the 1980s lacked rain.
     
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