"The risk exists that .... "

I am proofreading an English text related to financial consulting. This text is the result of an audit which observes, identifies risks and comes up with recommendations. The text follows this order in every chapter: observation, risk, recommendation.

Now, every time the writer starts the 'risk' paragraph, she starts with "the risk exists that". Both the writer and I are Dutch. In Dutch, saying "het risico bestaat" is correct, and this sentence translates literally into "the risk exists".

I find it odd, but since I've seen it in every single one of her slides I'm starting to doubt myself. Is this a false literal translation, or is it correct in English too?

  • 1
    Google Books Ngram Viewer offers a useful way of seeing how common phrases are. There is a risk... as suggested by Colin Fine, appears frequently in print and The risk exists that... shows just a trace. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Ronald Sole Oct 17 '19 at 10:17
  • @FumbleFingers alright, so it's not about whether it's acceptable or not, rather it's about whether it would give off the impression that they are fluent in English. Would using the phrase give you the idea that their English is unnatural? – Thaliane Oct 17 '19 at 14:26

Your question indicates that you are working in a specialized field, financial consulting. In finance, as you know, the word risk has a specialized meaning:

In finance and investing, risk often refers to the chance an outcome or investment's actual gains will differ from an expected outcome or return. Risk includes the possibility of losing some or all of an original investment. ... Quantifiably, risk is usually assessed by considering historical behaviors and outcomes.

-- Investopedia | archive.org

Financial risk is any of various types of risk associated with financing .. Often it is understood to include only downside risk, meaning the potential for financial loss and uncertainty about its extent.

-- Wikipedia

In everyday language, the word "risk" is used more generally.

If you mean a general "chance" of something happening:

Commenter @Ronald Sole suggests this alternative

There is a risk...

this is a very good alternative to change the phrasing and avoid repetition.

If you mean the specialized meaning of "risk", as a term of art(Definition) in your field:

If you are creating a list of different types of financial risk, in a specialized type of text, it is fine to enumerate (LIST) them this way:

  • The risk exists that the customer will default. (further explanation)

  • The risk exists that weather will cause crops to fail. (further explanation)

  • The risk exists that laws will change. (further explanation)

You can equally well use the "there is a risk" formulation:

  • There is a risk that the customer will default. (further explanation)

  • There is a risk that weather will cause crops to fail. (further explanation)

  • There is a risk that laws will change. (further explanation)

If you are not creating a list

If you are not creating a list, but you are using this phrase repeatedly in running text, you can sound more natural by varying the phrasing to avoid repetition. You are correct that it can sound more natural.

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It would be more usual to state this in a slightly different way, however it is not strictly incorrect.

In any kind of risk assessment there needs to be a statement of each identified risk, and a plan for mitigating that risk. Risk in this context is not just about the chance of an unfortuante event or outcome, it also includes the impact of that happening. As the implications can vary, even for the same event, using the definite article for a single event is (in my experience) unusual.

You stated that this is a financial report, and in the financial context risk is usually a mass (uncountable) noun and therefore does not normally have a definite article. (See below).

A clear statement of the risk would normally state not just what the unfortunate event or outcome might be, but the range of implications of that event as well. Introducing several outcomes for a single identified 'risk' also means that the definite article would not be used.

The following is from another question regarding the use of the word 'risk': Why do we say “involve any risk” and not “involve any risks”

Risk, when used in a financial context is a mass (uncountable) noun.

1.5 mass noun The possibility of financial loss.
‘the Bank is rigorous when it comes to analysing and evaluating risk’

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

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