I dont understand when to use the "cause" and the "causes". what is the difference? I am writing this book review, and really need some help with this. The sentence im struggling with is "In both situations there is a lack of resources which CAUSE people to die...".

2 Answers 2

  1. In both situations there is a lack of resources which cause people to die.

Strictly speaking, the above sentence means that there aren't enough resources, and the resources, were they available, would cause people to die. So it's those resources that are causing deaths, and there aren't enough of those resources, which is a good thing.

However, it would be a little strange to describe something as a resource and as a cause of death at the same time, so I don't think this is what you want.

  1. In both situations there is a lack of resources which causes people to die.

This sentence should be read as follows: there's a lack of some resources, and it is this lack that's causing deaths. In effect, without those resources people die; the resources help avoid death. Unfortunately, there's a lack of those resources.

This sentence makes sense, and is what you probably want to write.

However, it's not inconceivable that someone mistakenly uses the first sentence to mean the same thing as the second sentence because there's a plural noun (resources) that's closer to the verb (CAUSE), and people sometimes forget that they started with a lack [...], which means the whole thing (a lack of resources) should be treated as a singular, i.e. followed by a singular verb. This alternative reading of the first sentence is sanctioned by the strangeness of its literal reading.

In my opinion, it's also likely that people won't even notice the mistake.


Cause is plural and causes is singular. For example:

This piece of candy causes tooth decay. (singular)

Cigarettes cause cancer. (plural)

I don't think your issue is with cause.

I think your sentence isn't specific enough and it's difficult to determine the point. I would reword it to be more specific about what you mean. For example:

In both situations, it is the lack of resources that causes people to die.

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