What is 'for lack of' or 'for want of'?

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,296 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
edited November 2019 in Vocabulary

Students often have difficulty with the expressions "for want of" and "for lack of".

In this sentence, "For want of a better tool, I used my knife to tighten the screw" or this sentence, "He failed the exam, but it wasn't for lack of studying.", the expressions for want of and for lack of are used.

In a positive sense, for want of and for lack of mean that the speaker or writer did not have anything better, or adapted. The first sentence can be re-written, "I did not have a better tool, so I used my knife to tighten the screw." Normally the appropriate tool would be a screwdriver, but I did not have one available.

Another example, "She wrote the word 'good' 5 times in her essay, for lack of a better adjective." This means she could not find a better adjective and wrote the word 'good'.

In a negative sense, not for want of and not for lack of means the person used every method available, but still did not achieve something. The second sentence can be re-written, "He failed the exam, even though he studied a lot for it."

Another example, "The team played well but lost the match, and it was not for want of talent or training, they were beaten by a better team". This sentence means the team did the best it could do, and it is a talented team and they trained for the match, but the other team was better.

For want of and  for lack of are both elegant expressions to use in your speaking and writing, just be careful to use them properly.

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