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I am reading a reference book and there is a sentence which I don't really understand. Here is the sentence:

They have not grown old enough to get the capacity to understand their study purpose.

What is meant by "get the capacity"? Can anyone use an alternative phrase to explain this?

  • With age comes the capacity to understand. In other words brains develop with age. Their brains haven't had time to develop sufficiently so that they are capable of understanding the purpose of their study. – Jim Oct 8 '14 at 17:24
  • There is an implied adjective: mental. They don't have the mental capacity. – Octopus Oct 8 '14 at 18:31
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    The proper turn of phrase is "has/have the capacity." I'm not sure why the author did not print simply "They do not have the capacity to understand their study purpose yet," or any number of better options instead of this awkward mess. – Crazy Eyes Oct 8 '14 at 21:34
  • +1 for "awkward mess". But if we were to try to fix the author's wordy mess, still leaving it wordy, but less of of mess, we would do this: They are too young to have attained the capacity to understand the purpose of their study." As Hellion said, capacity=capability. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 8 '14 at 23:00
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This use of capacity is sense 3a from m-w.com's definition:

an individual's mental or physical ability

The people in question are too young. Not only do they not understand their study purpose, no amount of explaining will make them understand; they do not yet have the ability (or capability or capacity) to understand it.

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