a + adjective + uncountable ? "a very low solubility"

flaterik

New Member
Polish
Hello everyone. I'm struggling with the use of articles in English. I cannot find out why it is common to say "a very low solubility", when solubility is an uncountable noun. I read many articles on the use of articles but still I didn't find an answer. Could you give me the answer or refer to some grammatical rule ?

Thanks !
 
  • flaterik

    New Member
    Polish
    But isn't there a more general rule about use of indefinite articles together with an adjective and an uncountable noun ? Or it is just one of the cases which you have to learn by heart ? The same author (native English) writes "a visible efflorescence" (efflorescence is a salty deposit which may develop on a wall).
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    Looked at from a grammarian's standpoint, you have a good case.
    How a scientist looks at this issue of 'solubility'...

    Let me illustrate with this: a recent textbook (1910) had the title
    "Solubilities of inorganic and organic compounds: a compilation of quantitative solubility data from the periodical literature"
    My first impulse was, that it should be 'solubility'. But this would suggest that there is one...one...measure of solubility for each compound. A scientist in this field knows that solubility of any compound varies, depending on the solvent used, AND on temperature AND on pressure.
    To his mind, compound A has various degrees of solubility, dependent on each of these 3 factors. Hence, for him, 'solubilities' may seem highly appropriate!

    I agree with you: I would have expected "...has very low solubility..." - it's what I learnt in high school chemistry.
    But if the mindset of the scientist is of 'multiple solubilities' depending on the three factors above, it probably seems obvious to regard solubility at, say, a particular solvent at a high temperature, as just one instance, '...has a low solubility under 100 degrees centigrade, but a high solubility over 200 degrees'.

    (If not...if not...then it's just more instances of the deplorable deterioration in the standard of English among 'educated' native speakers!:)
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    As I see it, solubility in "a very low solubility" is countable - it is one amongst many solubilities.

    In the alternative, "He has low intelligence." "It has high resistance." low and high speak of a comparative quality (little and great) rather than quantity.
     

    flaterik

    New Member
    Polish
    Looked at from a grammarian's standpoint, you have a good case.
    How a scientist looks at this issue of 'solubility'...

    Let me illustrate with this: a recent textbook (1910) had the title
    "Solubilities of inorganic and organic compounds: a compilation of quantitative solubility data from the periodical literature"
    My first impulse was, that it should be 'solubility'. But this would suggest that there is one...one...measure of solubility for each compound. A scientist in this field knows that solubility of any compound varies, depending on the solvent used, AND on temperature AND on pressure.
    To his mind, compound A has various degrees of solubility, dependent on each of these 3 factors. Hence, for him, 'solubilities' may seem highly appropriate!

    I agree with you: I would have expected "...has very low solubility..." - it's what I learnt in high school chemistry.
    But if the mindset of the scientist is of 'multiple solubilities' depending on the three factors above, it probably seems obvious to regard solubility at, say, a particular solvent at a high temperature, as just one instance, '...has a low solubility under 100 degrees centigrade, but a high solubility over 200 degrees'.

    (If not...if not...then it's just more instances of the deplorable deterioration in the standard of English among 'educated' native speakers!:)
    I can understand that sometimes the context of research suggests that solubility is measured by different methods or varies with parameters, than they use it in plural. But in my case there's no such context, just a claim that some compound has "a very low solubility". If you put into google "a very low solubility" you will find 835k answers, thus it is quite common expression used without this context as well.
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    Nobody had ever heard of 'sexual harassment in the workplace' until a landmark precedent-setting case in America.
    It took one reporter for a well-known TV channel to report 'haRASSment', and it spread across other news networks world wide. It is pronounced 'HARassment'.

    Let one scientist write a widely-read article with '...has a very low solubility" (for either of the reasons above - mindset or poor grammar - , and it spreads!)

    In the alternative, "He has low intelligence." "It has high resistance." low and high speak of a comparative quality (little and great)

    I disagree. 'low intelligence' is a quantity/measure - the intelligence quotient: below I.Q. 90, and is expressed as "...is of low intelligence" and 'he is of above average intelligence'.
     

    flaterik

    New Member
    Polish
    I found this explanation:
    " However, English is a peculiar enough language to allow, even require, the indefinite article to be used with many seemingly
    uncountable words if there is an adjectival attribute: It was a very dense fog. " link
    Could it be the same case for "a very low solution" ?
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I found this explanation:
    " However, English is a peculiar enough language to allow, even require, the indefinite article to be used with many seemingly
    uncountable words if there is an adjectival attribute
    Could it be the same case for "a very low solution" ?
    Yes.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Indeed! Then you add on top of that, that solubility is a specific property/quantity and you realize that it is one of those words that can be countable as well as uncountable. For example, weight can be an uncountable concept (like solubilty) but also a specific countable. The millstone was a very big weight around his neck. Salt has a high solubilty in water (it is a large number of grams per liter) but a low solubility in ether. The word refers to either the concept or the quantity.
     
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    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    That was my suspicion too - that there were multiple "solubilities" - but it's been quite a while since I studied chemistry and I didn't want to say anything too contrafactual.
     
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