Language tip of the week: abilityPosted by Kerstin Johnson on April 04, 2014
In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc.
This week’s language tip helps with the noun ability:
When ability means ‘the fact of being able to do something’, it is followed by an infinitive. It is never used in the pattern ‘the ability of doing something’:
✗ Imagination is the
ability of making uppictures in your mind.
✓ Imagination is the ability to make up pictures in your mind.
ability of speaking Englishhas become extremely important.
✓ The ability to speak English has become extremely important.
In this meaning, ability is not used in the plural:
✗ It is good that we have
abilities to dreamand imagine.
✓ It is good that we have the ability to dream and imagine.
The plural form abilities, which is much less frequent, is used to refer to someone’s ‘skills’ or ‘talents’, and is never followed by an infinitive:
Men and women have different needs, interests and abilities.
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