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he becomes increasingly conscious of his ___ of fluency.

A shortage, B lack, C weakness.

The answer is lack. Can anyone explain what's the difference between these words?

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    Why did this get downvoted?
    – Andy
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:23
  • @MarkHubbard that's not exactly true, saying "Jane speaks more fluently than Bob" is perfectly good English.
    – Andy
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:35
  • Andy, I completely agree. And good answer, too. The question probably got down-voted (not by me) because proofreading and helping with homework are off-topic on EL&U. Feb 25, 2017 at 16:41
  • 1
    @Andy: the tooltip that you see if you hover the mouse over the downvote button gives a short explanation of the usual reasons for downvoting: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful." This question seems realatively clear, and it's a matter of opinion whether it is useful, but I think it pretty clearly lacks research effort. (I haven't downvoted because I'm out of votes for the day.) Someone who wants to know "what is the difference between these three specific words" should start by looking at their dictionary definitions.
    – herisson
    Feb 25, 2017 at 18:49
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    @Andy: an example of a user who I think has a good format for asking questions like this is cornejo. You see that it's not necessary to include a ton of research, but it's nice to have links, or discussion of what the dictionary says, or just guesses about what the difference might be.
    – herisson
    Feb 25, 2017 at 18:53

1 Answer 1

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"Shortage" usually refers to something physical, whereas "lack" often refers to something immaterial.

Shortage of bread. Shortage of teachers. Shortage of apples.

Lack of sanity. Lack of fluency. Lack of agreement. Lack of understanding.

You can also refer to a "bread shortage", "teacher shortage", etc., but "sanity lack", "fluency lack", etc. are incorrect.

On the other hand, lack can also refer physical things:

Lack of drinking water. Lack of used cars.

"Shortage" often connotes that there is less of something than usual or intended -- for example, the shortage of oil in the US during the 1973 oil crisis. Lack has no such connotation.

People will understand if you use either word in place of the other, but "shortage of sanity", "shortage of fluency", "shortage of agreement", etc. sound weird to a native speaker.

"Weakness of" is a very uncommon phrase in general. Instead of referring to "the weakness of his muscles" I think it's more common to say "how weak his muscles are".

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