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If I want to tell somebody that Chinese people have a lot of food and that they eat cats and dogs for other reasons, can I say:

The reason why Chinese people eat cats and dogs is not because of the lack of food.

Would it be mistaken for "Chinese people don't have food, but they don't eat cats and dogs for not having food but for other reasons." because the "the lack of food" over here kind of makes me think like they are having that kind of problem, which is not exactly what I meant.

Or I should say it without a "the"

The reason why Chinese people eat cats and dogs is not because of lack of food.

If you could, please also explain how the article "the" works in cases like this?

It is just a example sentence. Please forgive me if you get offended. By the way - I am Chinese, so I can't be racist, right? lol

  • Do they really eat cats? :'( – 7_R3X Apr 16 '16 at 17:42
  • Is there or is there not a lack of food in China? You mention "the lack of food over here." Your question is not clear. – Alan Carmack Apr 16 '16 at 17:54
  • They're perfectly delicious. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 16 '16 at 19:03
  • If you wanted to omit the article, I'd rephrase the sentence: The reason ... is not because they lack food. – J.R. Apr 16 '16 at 21:25
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Consider these two versions of the same humourous rhyme:

It wasn't the cough that carried him off, it was the coffin they carried him off in

It wasn't a cough that carried him off, it was the coffin they carried him off in

Setting aside the fact that the second one isn't as funny, note that the use of the in the first sentence strongly suggests that he did have a cough but dismisses it as the cause of his death. The second sentence dismisses a cough as the cause of his death, but gives no information about whether he had a cough or not.

Using the indicates that you are talking about something specific, something that does exist. "the lack of food" therefore does suggest that there is a food shortage. Your second sentence is nearly OK, but you don't need why. Here is the corrected sentence:

The reason Chinese people eat cats and dogs is not because of lack of food.

A more idiomatic way of expressing what you want is like this sentence, which I found with this definition of lack:

If he ​fails it won't be for lack of ​effort.

For in this sentence means because of, so you don't need to start the sentence with the reason why. Note that I have changed if to when because we know that Chinese people do eat cats and dogs. Here is a revised sentence:

When Chinese people eat cats and dogs, it's not for lack of food.

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