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I have a question about uncountable nouns when they follow a preposition. I know that in general we don't use an article with uncountable nouns if we want to talk about something in general, e.g. "Life is precious.", but we need one if we want to refer to something specific, e.g. "The life of a newborn baby is precious." However, what happens if two uncountable nouns are linked using a preposition like this?

"The stress impact on (the) CET1 capital is quite large."

Context: CET1 capital is a regulatory metric for banks, i.e. it is a specific form of capital, which is an uncountable noun. In this context I am talking about the CET1 capital of a specific bank. In addition, I am talking about what happens to the CET1 capital of this particular bank in a stress scenario. I am pretty sure that I need a definite article at the start of the sentence, but do I need one after "on" as well? To me both versions sound correct, but I am not a native speaker.

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    Could you provide a simpler example sentence that doesn't require us to follow banking terminology? My eyes glassed over after five words of that description. Why not just, "The impact on the bond market is quite large"?
    – gotube
    Dec 1, 2022 at 20:04

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This is a question about style in a technical field so there is no answer that will meet universal approval.

First, CET1 is an acronym that already references capital so my sense of style suggests that “CET1 capital” is redundant boilerplate for “CET1” or “tier-1 capital.”

Second, my sense of style votes against acronyms unless you are writing for a technically informed audience. Otherwise, I’d prefer “tier-1 capital” over “CET1” even for an audience that consists of bank directors, who delegate such arcana to accountants and compliance lawyers.

Third, and most important, let’s get to the meat of your question. It is true that “capital” is often used as a mass noun. But it is also true that, in regulatory and accounting contexts, “capital” is countable; it is represented by concrete numerals on a balance sheet or analysis of changes in components of capital. Thus, in the contexts in which CET1 is discussed, it represents an exact numeric amount. That leads me to believe that it is better (not correct because we are talking about style) NOT to treat CET1 as a non-countable noun.

Fourth, because you are talking about a specific bank, I would use “its tier-1 capital.”

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    Thanks for your answer. CET1 is a common abbreviation and T1 or Tier-1 is actually something different. Also CET1=Common Equity Tier 1, so the abbreviation does not include the word "capital. Ok, so you're saying in this instance you would treat CET1 capital as a countable noun, correct? But then I also need "the" before it, right? Dec 1, 2022 at 20:58
  • Well, equity is capital. The only reason that that tier-1 even exists as a concept is that there are hybrid securities that have some attributes that are essential to equity capital. Regulators like those securities but recognize that they are not fully equivalent to the equity represented by common stock. In any case, it is definitely countable; regulators do not consult a medium to determine what it is. But in the specific context that you are discussing, the numerical amount of a legally defined number pertaining to a specific bank, “the” is not as pertinent as “its.” Dec 2, 2022 at 1:11
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I think you've answered your own question. In your paragraph about context you use the term 'CET1' three times, but only twice with an article. When you do, it is because you are referring to it as a property of something specific:

Context: CET1 capital is a regulatory metric for banks, i.e. it is a specific form of capital, which is an uncountable noun. In this context I am talking about the CET1 capital of a specific bank. In addition, I am talking about what happens to the CET1 capital of this particular bank in a stress scenario. I am pretty sure that I need a definite article at the start of the sentence, but do I need one after "on" as well? To me both versions sound correct, but I am not a native speaker.

When you're defining what CET1 is, you're speaking about in general. When it is a property that belongs to a bank, then it is something specific in itself and requires an article.

Consider:

Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis.

'Hair' doesn't have an article because we are speaking about hair in general for the purpose of defining it.

The hair of a dog is quite wiry.

Here, 'hair' has an article because we are talking about it as something belonging to something specific - a dog.

So, if you are speaking about the stress impact on CET1 in general - that is all instances of CET1, then don't use an article. But if you're speaking about a specific example - for example the CET1 of a particular bank - then use one.

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    Thanks for you answer. Guess I just needed a confirmation :D Dec 1, 2022 at 20:21

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