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I thought it was a custom in English to write "it is raining" instead of "rain is falling". Still I don't know why the second construction is wrong. Yet I found a song called Rain is Falling, so I'm confused. Is this construction entirely wrong?

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    The song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" really wouldn't have made it as "It Keeps Raining on My Head". As said in a couple of answers, sometimes it's appropriate to use a more poetic expression. – barbara beeton Feb 6 '13 at 20:49
  • Several songs have rain is falling. Rain by Dawn of Destiny. There is also Labrynth's Falling Rain and Simple Mind's Don't you (forget about me). – user6951 Apr 10 '15 at 8:11
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It is raining is how we normally describe the weather on a rainy day. However, that doesn't make rain is falling grammatically incorrect. That construction may not be a common way to describe the weather, but it's not "wrong."

The word rain can be a verb, or a noun; as a noun, it refers collectively to raindrops. Moreover, falling can refer to anything dropping from the sky. Therefore, paratroopers can be falling, drones can be falling, and rain can be falling.

One might regard "rain is falling" to be a more poetic way to talk about the rain; for example, "Rain is falling in Santa Fe" might be considered more poetic than "It is raining in Santa Fe."

Here's another place where I could see a writer using this way of phrasing it:

The firefighters had been battling the wildfires for three days. On Friday morning, their prayers were finally answered; rain was falling as the sun came over the mountains.

Bottom line: Don't confuse "less common" with "incorrect".

  • If something is so much less common that it is never used, then it's wrong simply because it isn't used. For instance the past tense for "fly" is "flew", not "flied", and for "buy" it is "bought", not "buyed". The wrong forms are wrong because English-speaking children told so repeatedly until they stop using it, and then later pass this on to their children. So, phrases that "on paper" look grammatical can be wrong. For instance "white and black (picture)". It's "black and white", and that's that. There might be a "White & Black Co." founded by Bob White and Peter Black. :) – Kaz Feb 6 '13 at 22:52
  • @Kaz: I agree with your caveat. "Less common" may not be "incorrect", but "extremely rare" could mean "is a typo", particularly on the internet or in the blogosphere. – J.R. Feb 6 '13 at 22:57
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    A big difference between "it is raining" and "rain is falling" is whether language that limits the scope describes the scope of the weather phenomena or the scope of its effects. Consider "rain is falling on the uncovered exhibits" versus "it is raining on the uncovered exhibits". The latter suggests that precipitation is focused on the uncovered exhibits, while the former is agnostic with regard to how much precipitation may be landing elsewhere. – supercat Feb 7 '13 at 17:53
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There is absolutely nothing wrong with the construct "rain is falling." The listener would know what you were saying (correctly) either way. But it sounds a bit more natural when you are talking about the state of the weather to say, "It is raining."

The word rain describes both an object (the physical rain from the sky) and a state of the weather (it is raining today). So if you are stating what the weather is, it sounds a bit redundant to say it is falling. "It is raining" versus "There is rain outside and it is falling."

The construct seems pretty consistent.

"It is cloudy." — describing the state of the weather.
"There are clouds in the sky." — describing the physical object.

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Rain is falling is grammatically correct, even though it is used less frequently than It is raining. This Ngram shows the relative frequency of use in published works:

Ngram

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    I thought the Ngram was interesting in that both wordings seemed to run fairly even until the turn of the century. Perhaps Ngrams don't tell the whole story, and it's true that Ngrams rarely answer a question on their own, but some of them are quite interesting to analyze nonetheless, and therefore add value to the overall discussion. – J.R. Feb 6 '13 at 19:08
  • @Paola: Re: "it is not infrequent for an expression to be comparatively common in usage and still to be incorrect": How can that be? "Incorrect" is basically shorthand for "not used by native speakers". If it's in common usage, then it is, by definition, correct. – ruakh Feb 6 '13 at 21:04
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    @ruakh: I would disagree with the notion that "incorrect" means "not in use", and that common usage implies (or defines) correctness. Terms like "correct" are hard to pin down. If I say, "We ain't goin'", is that correct? It might be heard in the street, but it's not "proper" or "formally correct." We can save some of that hair-splitting for future questions; in this case, there's nothing incorrect about "rain is falling" – and that assertion is not merely based on the fact we can find instances of the expression in literature. – J.R. Feb 6 '13 at 23:02
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    @ruakh: Why drag correctness into it? Because I was answering this comment of yours: "If it's in common usage, then it is, by definition, correct." I don't think that's a very good definition of correct, especially not for language learners. I'd label "We ain't goin’" understandable English, or colloquial English, or informal English, but I'd hesitate before deeming it correct English. – J.R. Feb 7 '13 at 10:59
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    @supercat: I don't think it's quite that simple, but you're probably on the right track. I have a hard time imagining a TV weather forecaster saying, "Rain will fall tomorrow," instead of, "It will rain tomorrow." However, the notion of a forecaster saying something like, "Some rain will fall in the lower elevations" sounds more plausible for some reason. – J.R. Feb 7 '13 at 15:43
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Well, I might find it redundant because RAIN is meant to fall and you cannot say that "The rain is falling." but instead, we should say "It is raining." Another thing, it is grammatically correct that is why some writers use it to their pieces. It is accepted in literature, especially in poems, because we have poetic license.

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