Hi, I have some questions. Thank you for finding and reading this thread.
1. Do you usually find that "solar flare" is countable by native's instinct or intuition? Do you all usually know "flare" is countable [usually sing.]?
2. In Google results, I can find that in many cases it is used in a plural form, sunspots. I guess using it in a singular form would be acceptable as well. But why is a plural forms used? Or are both ways OK?
3. Do you see they are special astoronominal terms, so do you need to check if they're countable or uncountable?
SupercatDo you all usually know "flare" is countable [usually sing.]?
Flare is a sudden burst of activity or a large, intense flame. Flare is also a verb.
For example, refineries that make gasoline flare off the excess gasses produced.
You can have more than one flare. It is countable. It is not an uncommon word.
There are six flares visible in this picture.
During a total solar eclipse, you can see solar flares in the solar atmosphere. There is usually more than one visible.
Supercat2. In Google results, I can find that in many cases it is used in a plural form, sunspots. I guess using it in a singular form would be acceptable as well. But why is a plural forms used? Or are both ways OK?
Do you know the word "spot"? It is a very common word. Nothing special.
Leopards have spots. Some breeds of dogs and horses have spots. Some flowers have spots. If you spill something on the tablecloth, it can leave a spot.
Sunspot is a compound word made from sun + spot. It is a small, round, dark area on the sun. Sometimes, there are no sunspots, and other times there are many.
Tiger Lily with spots.
Both flare and sunspot are countable.
That means you can use them in the singular or in the plural.
Just because you see a countable noun mostly in the singular doesn't mean it can't be used in the plural.
Just because you see a countable noun mostly in the plural doesn't mean it can't be used in the singular.
Note that as a modifier, countable nouns are normally used in the singular, as in the expression sunspot activity, even though such activity can involve many sunspots.
Thank you very much, AlpheccaStars and Jim,
Both "solar flare" and "sunspot" somewhat sounded like special terms or proper nouns to me. The parts of "flare" and "spot" in each word could work to define whether it is countable or uncountable. What I need to know is that they're usual nouns.
That is just a matter of writer's choice which the singular or plural he or she uses in a definition or sentence.
Well the idea of the sun is in the phrase "solar flare" and the compound noun "sunspot".
They are composed of common concrete nouns, flare and spot.
Sunspots were discovered when early astronomers (Galileo, 1613) projected the image of the solar disk on a white paper or screen and saw the small dark spots.
And the choice is made depending whether the writer is referring to just one (singular) or more than one (plural) thing.
As we know, usually several sunspots appear on the surface of the sun. I thought this is why people use "sunspot" in the plural form lol. But doesn't this behaviour of a sunspot matter to the choice of plural form, aside from the case where several sunspots are a topic that is going to be described?
Scientists measure the rotation of the sun on its axis by identifying each sunspot and watch how it apparently "moves" across the solar disk by measuring its position each day. They give each spot an identifying number as it appears on the edge (limb) and then tracks across to the other side.
They have determined that the rotation is not the same at the equator as it is at higher latitudes. If they are reporting the position of on spot, they use a singular noun.