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There is currently a debate on Duolingo about the proper translation of a sentence to English (the original language isn't the point of this question).

The sentence, literally translates to "She is under the shower". Now, in no English that I have heard is this correct. Possible appropriate interpretations would be:

  • She is taking a shower
  • She is in the shower

However, I thought I would put it to a wider audience for analysis. So:

Is "She is under the shower" a proper English sentence?

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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Feb 5 at 2:34

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

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"She is under the shower" - that is a proper English sentence but it doesn't mean she is washing herself using the shower. It means that she is physically positioned under the shower, either the shower head itself or in a room below, therefore its expectation is fairly rare. One might infer that the water is running or that she is washing herself, but those are not the primary meanings of the sentence. If intended to mean she is taking a shower, it sounds bad/wrong. – Mitch Feb 4 at 17:00
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She is in the shower is idiomatic. If you say, someone is under the shower of criticism "metaphorically", it could make sense, but it is not broadly used. – Rathony Feb 4 at 17:08
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'He is in the bath' would be unremarkable for 'He is taking/having a bath' (except for perhaps being a little personal) in the UK. 'He is under the shower', though formally nearly identical, is rare for the ablution sense. And 'She is at the basin' vanishingly rare. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 4 at 17:12
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The grammar is correct but no one says that. There shouldn't be any debate. She is in the shower or she is taking a shower. – michael_timofeev Feb 4 at 17:24
    
@Rathony - In that metaphorical use, it would probably be under a shower of criticism. Great usage point, though. – J.R. Feb 4 at 17:24
up vote 19 down vote accepted

The noun shower doesn't have the same meaning in the two sentences.

  1. She is taking a shower:

An act of washing oneself in a shower: 'she had a nice refreshing shower'

  1. She is in the shower:

A cubicle or bath in which a person stands under a spray of water to wash: 'A woman stood in the shower washing herself off after her day of work'.

You don't say, "She is under the room/bathroom." when she is in the room/bathroom. That's why it is not idiomatic to say, "She is under the shower."

As commented above, if you say, "She is under the shower of criticism (praise).", shower would mean "a large number of things that fall or happen at the same time", but it is not idiomatic. You should use "She is under a shower of criticism (praise)."

If you say "She is under the shower," people would take it as "She is taking a shower." under normal circumstances, but it is neither idiomatic nor proper.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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I'm baffled as to why this has any downvotes and why the "answer" that doesn't answer the question has any upvotes. Did ELU and ELL somehow swap last night while I was asleep? – Todd Wilcox Feb 4 at 20:17
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"She is in the shower" would be understood by the vast majority of US English speakers, in a normal context, to mean the same as "she is taking a shower". It might be different if "the shower" is a large communal shower or some such, but for the normal home shower the two have virtually identical meaning. – Hot Licks Feb 4 at 21:48
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(We all know the difference between "under" and "in", but that has little relevance when it comes to idioms.) – Hot Licks Feb 4 at 21:49
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But there are three sentences involved here. In the first, "She is under the shower", the sense of shower involved is the shower-head or the actual spray. The literal interpretation is available, as Mitch comments. So 'You don't say, "She is under the room/bathroom." when she is in the room/bathroom. That's why it is not idiomatic to say, "She is under the shower." ' is specious reasoning. Prepositional usages are often far from this transparent. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 5 at 0:08
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"Under a shower of criticism" has 32.8k google hits, and is a common idiom. "Under the shower of criticism" has only 4 google hits, and 3 of them are posts on this question. It's only usable when there is a specific shower of criticism being discussed, like in the google hit: Under the shower of criticism President Reagan has now announced he will ask Congress to enact legislation .... You should never say She is under the shower of criticism. That doesn't work, because there isn't a shower of criticism that everyone has the way people have bathrooms. – Peter Cordes Feb 6 at 3:27

You are correct. Nobody says “she is under the shower” in English, even though she is technically under the shower head.

You take a shower, or you have a shower, or you may be showering, or you may be said to be in the shower, with the assumption being you are taking a shower.

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I think one reason why no one says "under the shower" is because "the shower" never means "the shower head". So even if a person is literally underneath a shower head, one would still not say "she is under the shower" instead of "she is under the shower head". – Todd Wilcox Feb 4 at 20:20
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In one instance I can see this working. If you have a workplace that has a safety shower for washing off chemical spills or radioactive dust, the shower in that case does not have any kind of enclosure. It that case "is IN the shower" would not make sense. "I heard Jim got toxic waste on him, where is he now?" "He's under the shower." – Arluin Feb 4 at 23:02
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+1 "She is under the shower" is valid but it means "I'm very sorry for my crime; twenty years of prison have taught me the error of my ways, and I'm finally prepared to tell you where I hid the body." – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 4 at 23:25

It is an idiomatic saying in Italian, "stare sotto la doccia" (to be under the shower), and Italian speakers understand perfectly that the person is not being squashed by the shower cubicle, the person is "under" (below) the jet of running water.

There are 100s of English phrasal verbs and idioms which cannot and should not be understood literally, e.g. "The aeroplane took off" An Italian might protest: What did the plane ‘take off’? How can a plane ‘take something off’? Or, the extremely common English idiom: "under the weather", is someone literally outside standing under a thing called "weather"? No, but English speakers understand it to mean that someone is either hungover or not feeling well. It's an idiom.

Although the OP's sentence “She is under the shower” is idiomatic for Italian speakers, English native speakers will prefer using the preposition in. As can be seen in the first link. However, I did find a couple of instances on the net where "under a/the shower" was used. It doesn't mean the OP's phrase is idiomatic in English, but it confirms the phrase is indeed “proper English”.

  1. I have lingered under a hot, pulsating shower, all lathered up with a loofah and artisan peppermint-and-grapefruit soap. (‘Glamping’ removes all the roughing-it from camping)
  2. I have been washing my hair under a veil of silence. Well, I've been washing it under a shower, but also under a metaphorical veil (The Guardian)
  3. If she does leave her room it will only be to stand under the shower for a half an hour, a daily routine which requires the output of a power station and the contents of a reservoir. Then she still has to wash her hair later. (Losing the technology struggle)
  4. During a getaway to Egypt, for instance, my husband developed an unexpected fever. When a quick check showed a temperature approaching 106, I knew it was serious enough to put him under a cold shower while I ran downstairs to coordinate an ice delivery and a pharmacy run. (The Frugal Traveler)
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One more thing to add is when you say "The airplane took off", the object of the phrasal verb to take off, i.e., runway or airstrip is elided. To take off has a sense of become airborne as it takes itself off a runway. I don't agree that it is one of the idioms that cannot be understood literally. Many phrasal verbs don't take the obvious objects for conciseness' sake. – Rathony Feb 4 at 20:59
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@Rathony I would go as far as to say that "under the shower" is not idiomatic at all. I'm pretty sure I've never heard that phrase used. – Todd Wilcox Feb 5 at 8:02
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@ToddWilcox: What you claim was never the question. The question was whether "She is under the shower" is a correct English sentence. The question was never whether this was the idiomatic way to express that someone is showering. – gnasher729 Feb 7 at 0:33

As many comments suggest, it's certainly not a normal way to phrase it in English. However, it is both grammatically correct and gets the correct point across.

As Rathony points out, the term "shower" can refer to the act of showering, or the room/stall in which you shower. But it can also refer to a bunch of water droplets being sprayed in a direction. "A light shower" refers to rain showering down. "A shower of confetti" is slightly figurative, in that we've exchanged water droplets with bits of paper, but is basically literal in use. From this, we can conclude that a shower in this context is really a collection of small things flowing or falling in a general direction.

So saying "she's under the shower" means she's under the collection of water droplets that are spraying out of (and presumably down from) the shower head that's located inside the shower stall that's inside the shower/bath room.

It also passes basic grammar tests with a subject, a verb, and a perfectly acceptable prepositional phrase.

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If I read "you're under the shower" I find it to be valid and start thinking about being on the next floor below it. So yes, it has a meaning, but not the meaning you expect.

Many answers have already covered the expected phrase is "in the shower".

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Consider the question: Where is she?

If anyone (native speaker or not) said She is under the shower, I would probably ask What do you mean? The sentence is grammatically correct but not idiomatic. It does not mean She is taking a shower or She is in the shower, which are idiomatic and need no explanation.

(American English)

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Imagine a nice swimming pool with all kinds of nice water related things. One of these is a shower: Just an opening in the wall with huge amounts of water coming out. You are not in the shower. It's all in the open. You are not under the showerhead. There is no showerhead. You are under the shower. And enjoy it.

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Why the downvotes? I see nothing wrong with this answer. It makes it perfectly clear that the sentence is grammatically correct but would not be the normal idiom used by a native speaker to describe the act of washing oneself in the shower. It is possible to contrive a case where a native speaker might say it. – steveverrill Feb 5 at 2:05
    
@steveverrill: Some people think that language must be boring. I think you should have fun with it. – gnasher729 Feb 8 at 23:50

Yes it is, but it would need to be in the right context.

Here's what i came up with

My sister and I damaged the floor in the bathroom, and we spent the next two days fixing it. I was working under the toilet and basin. She was under the shower.

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This appears to be answering only the title of the question; the rest of it makes clear that the author is really trying to judge if this sentence is valid and means what they think it does. Your answer doesn't have a lot of explanation, but it appears to be assuring them that it's valid by giving an example where the phrase has a different meaning. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 7 at 2:27
    
You're being daft. The question told us how a sentence in another language would be "literally translated". From that description we have not the slightest idea what that sentence means, because it is not in English. – gnasher729 Feb 8 at 23:45
    
@gnasher729 - The original question (which does not appear to have been edited) says that "Possible appropriate interpretations would be: She is taking a shower; She is in the shower." So we do know what the original non-English sentence means. – nnnnnn yesterday

protected by J.R. Feb 7 at 11:00

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