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In the following sentence, my teacher says that the lacking should be the lack, instead.

The lacking of trees may lead to global warming.

If it's wrong, would someone mind explaining why it is wrong? Thanks.

3 Answers 3

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"Lacking" and "lack" are two different words and they have different meanings:

lack — (noun) deficiency or absence of something needed, desirable, or customary: lack of money; lack of skill.

lacking — (adjective) wanting; deficient: He was found lacking in stamina.

When you say "the lacking of trees" you are meaning "the trees' lacking" which means that the trees themselves are lacking something. Your teacher is correct. You should use "lack" in this sentence.

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I'm not aware of any rule that mandates one noun form versus another; lacking and lack are both nouns. However, I've never read the word "lacking" used where "lack" also works. Perhaps what makes it sound awkward is that "lacking" is usually used as a verb. Ex: Lacking a lake, the dry county was not a popular spot for fishing, or for drinking. Using "the lacking" in your sentence jars with the expectation of "the lack"; it is not wrong, but just clumsy-sounding and overly wordy.

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Well technically you can tell her that the lacking of grammatical knowledge may lead to poor English teaching. She is probably going by the "does this sound right?" rule instead of actually looking at the rules. Tell her you are using Lacking as a noun and she can't even argue back while maintaining credibility.

While the lacking of trees has been linked to global warming, It's hard to tell how many trees are enough.

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  • Are you suggesting that a sentence such as: "The lacking of books in a library may lead to its closure" is grammatically correct/acceptable?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 7:05
  • I'm unaware of any rules dictating the avoidance of a conjunction immediately preceding a gerund phrase. It's awkward and uninspired, but it aint wrong. If you can tell me why: 'The lacking of books' is not a gerund phrase I will break my eternal vow not to engage in self-censorship by deleting my comments. Everything is on record at the NSA anyways.
    – Cavendici
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 7:59
  • Please, see this link on Google Ngram
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 8:09
  • I think I see the point you are trying to make: that OP and I should popularize the use of 'The lacking.' Just because people don't use it, doesn't make it a grammar breach.
    – Cavendici
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 8:17
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    “Does it sound right” is vastly superior to prescriptive rules as a gauge of whether you should use a form or construction; cf. “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”. “The lacking of trees” is unidiomatic and sounds strange. That simple. I would also understand it as meaning that someone in particular is lacking trees, rather than it referring to just an objective dearth of trees. Commented May 29, 2014 at 8:40

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