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"Unfortunately, these screenshot are not a reliable proof of the abscence of funds." The context is, a user was asked for a certain document to prove that the funds that were sent to him indeed never arrived. So the user sends a couple of screenshots, which we cannot accept.

I do feel like the word "abscence" is pretty abstract and therefore would not usually require the definite article. However, here it looks like a certain part of the sentence is implied but ommitted, the complete sentence with the implied part being "Unfortunately, these screenshot are not a reliable proof of the abscence of funds in your account.", with "in your account" being omitted. So, the question is, is the usage of the definite article before the word "abscence" correct here?

Also, I feel as if there also has to be the definite article before the word "funds", as if it meant "the funds which have been sent to your account".

What are your thoughts about it? What would be the correct way to convey that sort of meaning? Which of the following sentence would bear the most pleasing sound to a native speaker?

  1. Unfortunately, these screenshot are not a reliable proof of the abscence of funds.
  2. Unfortunately, these screenshot are not a reliable proof of the abscence of the funds.
  3. Unfortunately, these screenshot are not a reliable proof of abscence of funds.
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  • If you check the dictionary, you will see that in this sense (the second one listed) absence is a count noun (though it only occurs in the singular). So you need a determiner of some sort.
    – alphabet
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 2:31
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    If you aren't sure whether something is a count noun or not, you may need to look in the dictionary; meaning isn't a very reliable guide.
    – alphabet
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 2:35
  • To be honest, the indefinite article "a reliable" sounds more unnatural than the definite article "the absence", although I understand the reasoning for it. I would rephrase as "Unfortunately, these screenshots are not reliable proof of the absence of funds".
    – kandyman
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 2:46
  • @kandyman thank you for the remark, this detail somehow escaped my notice, my bad... Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 2:51
  • @kandyman I'm sorry if it's too much asking, but do you think "Unfortunately, these screenshot are not reliable proof of the abscence of the funds" would sound awkward due to the presence of the definite article before the words "funds"? Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 2:53

1 Answer 1

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There are four nouns here, so let's deal with each of them:

  1. Because "screenshot" is singular, it can not be modified by the adjective "these" or be the subject of the verb "are".

  2. As used in this sentence, "proof" is a noncount noun, so in the singular it usually does not take an indefinite article. (It can be a count noun, for example when it refers to a mathematical proof, but that isn't the case here.)

  3. You can include a determiner to indicate a specific "absence" or omit it to talk about "absence" as a more general concept. In this sentence, the reader knows which absence is meant (we're talking about the lack of money in an account), so it would be more common to include it.

  4. Similarly, you can include a determiner to indicate specific "funds" or omit it to talk about "funds" more generally. In this case, the writer doesn't seem to be referring to specific funds.

We therefore get:

Unfortunately, these screenshots are not reliable proof of the abscence of funds.

Although it is certainly possible for a plural subject ("these screenshots") to have a plural predicate nominative ("reliable proof . . ."), this sometimes sounds awkward. Therefore, I might instead write something like the following:

Unfortunately, these screenshots do not constitute reliable proof of the abscence of funds.

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  • Very thorough answer. An abbreviated version would be "These screenshots don't prove anything." Commented Jun 2 at 4:33

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