I saw an example sentence of the usage of word "lack" and it triggered another question in my mind.

The sentence is that

The teacher was lacking in communication skill

but what if I say

The teacher was lacking communication skill

Because dictionaries say that word is used like "<someone> lacks <something>"

So my questions are:

  1. Is my sentence grammatically correct?
  2. Does my sentence have the same meaning?
  3. When should I use the form "lack in"?

3 Answers 3


Colloquially, the plural is used for skill in this context:

The teacher was lacking in communication skills.

Stylistically the second sentence is not bad, but I would use the simpler:

The teacher lacked communication skills.

  • Thanks Gary's Student. Do you think is there any difference in terms of meaning in the sentences?
    – Murat
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:36
  • 1
    Only a very small difference...without the in implies a deficiency across all areas of communication skill. With the in might imply the deficiency is limited to certain skill only. Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:41
  • @Gary'sStudent - I also see that distinction. "John lacked <thing>" sounds to me like John had none of it, whereas "John was lacking in <thing>" sounds more like he had some, but not as much as he needed / wanted / would be expected to have.
    – AdamV
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 1:45
  • Would you mind writing the second comment in your answer. Because that specifically addresses the question.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 5:22

Both your sentences seems fine. Although in place of second one, you could simply say: "The teacher lacked communication skills".

From Oxford Dictionaries:

Police presence, which is lacking, should act as a deterrent for criminals.


For someone so lacking in motivation, he has done quite well for himself.

  • Thanks Arrowfar. So in your second sentence is word lacking adjective?
    – Murat
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:37
  • @Murat Yeah it is an 'adjective'
    – user6200
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:53

Both are okay. OxfordDictionaries and Dictionary.com talk about it.

Dictionary.com defines lack in as a verb phase which does not require an object as mentioned in OxfordDictionaries She lacks in patience is the example there.

On the other hand, lack something is used with object and in your question, you have used it correctly by mentioning communication skill [sic]. It's the use of verb with object. The novel lacks imagination is the example.

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