I still don't understand when to use 'the' with noun combinations like n+'of'+n and when not. Grammarly underlines 'absence of' (suggests putting 'the' before it) but doesn't underline 'lack of'. What's the difference? When does a following 'of' make a noun specific enough to use 'the' and when does it not? The Longman dictionary is no help. It says, for example, 'in the absence of evidence' but 'an absence of planning' (https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/absence). What's the difference? The similar issue is with 'need', for instance. A complete pell-mell: 'a need for new housing', but 'the need to improve communications' (https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/need). In both cases, we talk about specific needs, yet the dictionary puts 'the' only in the latter example. What's the difference?

  • That's why you should go to the ELL site, which has people answering questions who are more versed in explaining English usage to ESL students. (ell.stackexchange.com ) – Benjamin Harman Sep 13 '19 at 17:55

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