8

Please consider:

  1. We should pay attention to the quality of the presentation.
  2. We should pay attention to the quality of presentation.
  3. We should pay attention to quality of presentation.
  4. We should pay attention to quality of the presentation.

I’m aware there are similar questions to mine. But most posts I have read do not appear to address the particular inquiries I have here.

There are four possible combinations of this pattern. I think all four may be grammatically correct but there seem to be subtle differences. I'm afraid that if I'm not careful with the distinctions, I may sound confusing and awkward. Can someone please comment on the differences of the four following sentences (see, I'm not even sure this is right)?

I guess that the fourth one is always incorrect since the presentation is already specific so its quality should be specific as well—this means we can never have the pattern [ɴᴏᴜɴ] of the [ɴᴏᴜɴ]. Is my guess correct?

I’m not so sure about the second and third sentences: here presentation must refer to presentation in the general sense as there is no the. Does it matter to have that the before quality? Which version should be used?

  • 3
    +1 for [ɴᴏᴜɴ] of the [ɴᴏᴜɴ] question! :) – Maulik V Sep 16 at 2:09
10

Examples 1 thru 3 at least are grammatically valid. I am dubious about 4 in this specific case. However, they do not all mean the same thing, nor will the answers be the same for all possible nouns.

  1. We should pay attention to the quality of the presentation.

This is the most obvious, it directs attention the the specific quality of a specific presentation or to a generic presentation considered as a specific example.

  1. We should pay attention to the quality of presentation.

This is directing attention to presentation in general, not of any specific presentation. For "presentation" this works, because that word can mean either a specific event, or a attribute. (For example, restaurant critics speak of both the taste and the presentation of a dish.) But not all nouns have such a dual use. "We should pay attention to the quality of lecture." is not natural, perhaps even ungrammatical.

  1. We should pay attention to quality of presentation.

here both "quality" and "presentation" are attributes. In this case the meaning is much the same as example 2, but if the word "subject" were used in place of "quality" this would not be natural. This depends on the dual meaning of "quality" and will not work for any arbitrary noun.

  1. We should pay attention to quality of the presentation.

I don't think this works for these two nouns, but it might for other nouns. I think it would work better if "length" is used in place of "quality".

I have not been able to formulate any general rule indicating which of these four cases will be appropriate for any particular pair of nouns.

  • Would you mind answering whether noun of the noun is possible? – Maulik V Sep 16 at 3:29
  • @Maulik V I think that pattern (example 4) might be valid ins some cases. I suggested "length" for the first noun. But I have not thought nof a clear case where this pattern is obviously correct. – David Siegel Sep 16 at 3:49
  • @DavidSiegel Length of time, perhaps? – user5493187 Sep 16 at 13:43
  • 1
    I would disagree with the analysis of 2. here: "We should pay attention to the quality of lecture" sounds perfectly fine if we imagined university staff discussing goals for the term. – dlatikay Sep 16 at 13:56
  • 6
    @dlatikay In that scenario I would expect "We should pay attention to the quality of lectures" (plural form) or "of our lectures". I don't see "lecture" used as a generic, mass noun, but perhaps there is a sense where it might be. Other nouns could be. – David Siegel Sep 16 at 14:58
6

I guess that the fourth one is always incorrect since the presentation is already specific so its quality should be specific as well—this means we can never have the pattern [ɴᴏᴜɴ] of the [ɴᴏᴜɴ]. Is my guess correct?

There are situations where the "[ɴᴏᴜɴ] of the [ɴᴏᴜɴ]" works, and has a somewhat different meaning to "the [ɴᴏᴜɴ] of the [ɴᴏᴜɴ]".

Consider for example

(a) We should consider renovation of the building.

(b) We should consider the renovation of the building.

In version (a), renovation has not yet occurred, and we should consider the idea of renovating the building. Version (b) suggests rather that renovation has already been decided on, and we should think about the way in which it will be done - or maybe it has already been done in the past, and we should look at how it was done.

(a) We should pay attention to degradation of the engine.

(b) We should pay attention to the degradation of the engine.

Version (b) suggests more strongly that degradation of the engine has occurred, and we should look at it. Version (a) suggests more that we should be alert to possible degradation (which may or may not yet have occurred).

(a) We should not ignore misuse of the fire extinguishers.

(b) We should not ignore the misuse of the fire extinguishers.

Version (b) suggests more strongly that misuse has occurred, and we should not ignore it. Version (a) is more consistent with the situation where misuse is possible but has not occurred yet - we should not ignore it if it occurs in the future.

In all these examples, the first [ɴᴏᴜɴ] is a verbal noun of some kind. Further similar examples could involve names of diseases such as "cirrhosis of the liver".

  • +1, but I would prefer "We should consider renovating the building" to "We should consider renovation of the building" - but I agree that your form is used by educated native speakers, so it isn't wrong. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Sep 16 at 11:10
0

In English, it's often possible to omit an article, if it can be inferred from context. This applies both to the definite and the indefinite article (the/an). In your case, the provided context suggests that the indefinite article is missing in the second case.

  • We should pay attention to the quality of a presentation.

The third example is not ungrammatical; it's just lacking context. A small modification to the sentence makes it sound more natural:

  • We should pay attention to quality, duration and importance of the presentation.

In this case, there's again an implicit article:

  • We should pay attention to the quality, duration and importance of the presentation.

The final case is structurally different, as we can see from a rephrasing

  • We should pay attention to quality of presentation.
  • We should pay attention to presentation quality.

"Presentation" tells us here which "quality" we mean.

-2

Contrary to what David's answer says, I would say that only the first example is grammatical if I go by books.

The question is more about the zero article than the other two. I referred to this and this source to confirm whether presentation and quality, in this context, falls in the category of applying zero article; and, they both don't.

Zero article is mainly applied generic mass/plural nouns and indefinite mass/plural nouns. In this case, both the words 'presentation' and 'quality' are countable nouns.

Nevertheless, new Englishes are on rage and, therefore, the written sentences may exist in some dialects or registers.

I could not find any example of [ɴᴏᴜɴ] of the [ɴᴏᴜɴ] pattern but would like to learn whether it's possible.

  • 1
    When "quality" is used as a general attribute of something, it is not a countable noun. "We aim to deliver a high-quality product." or "Our product is made with outstanding quality." Similarly, presentation can be used in a generic sense, in which case it is not a countable noun. "He is an excellent teacher. His presentation of the subject is very clear." – David Siegel Sep 16 at 3:55
  • @DavidSiegel it depends on the usage of those words! The outstanding quality of the product to counter your first example; The presentation of the subject his very clear to counter the second. In both the sentences structures, they won't take articles anyway! And yes, added the name! :) – Maulik V Sep 16 at 5:10
  • 2
    The problem with the counterexamples is that each of the words quality and presentation has various senses, and I think you use them in different senses than David's examples do. In "high quality", the word quality is something that a product can have more or less of on a possibly continuous scale. With a noun that has only countable senses, such as apple, it would be nonsensical to write "high apple". – David K Sep 16 at 12:36
  • @Maulik V The key nouns in your counter examples are, I think used in different senses than in my examples, as David K says. Many nouns have both mass and countable senses. – David Siegel Sep 16 at 15:01

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