A. I was frightened by a bolt of lightning

B. I was frightened by a flash of lightning

Here are two sentences above, and I chose B as my answer, but answer in my book turns out to be A. I found that there are both expressions available in my dictionary, which makes me confused and not know which one is more acceptable. I’m wondering whether there are some nuances in two sentences.

The definitions:

bolt: lightning that appears as a white line in the sky

flash: a bright light that shines for a short time and then stops shining

2 Answers 2

  1. bolt - a flash of lightning that looks like a white line against the sky
  2. flash - a sudden bright light that quickly disappears

A lightning flash is the entire discharge whereas a lightning bolt is a single jagged white line from the discharge.

I must admit that both are frightening.


With out more context, I'd say either "bolt" or "flash" is OK. "Flash" emphasizes the suddenness and light, and "bolt" makes me think more of the light traveling through the sky. Your book may prefer "A" because the "flash" is the result of the bolt of lightning, and not the lightning itself, but I'm just guessing.

Used figuratively, "bolt" tends to be applied to things that move quickly. For example,

He grabbed his backpack and was out the door like a bolt of lightning.

"Flash" on the other hand tends to be applied to things that are sudden and figuratively or literally have to do with light or enlightenment. For example,

As soon as I stopped worrying about it, the answer came to me like a flash of lightning.

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