It was pouring with rain and she was wondering what to do.

This is the sentence which I used answering the question Is it grammatically correct to use two past continuous tenses in a single sentence?. The sentence is taken from Grammar and Vocabulary for First Certificate by L.Prodromou (2005).

But one commentator said: This may just be me, but "It was pouring with rain" sounds odd to me - not because of the progressive, but because I would expect "It was pouring rain" instead.

In my perception, the idiom "to pour with rain" is just fine. It doesn't sound odd to me. I'm interested in other people's views. Is to pour with rain odd, kind of dated?

  • It certainly pours with rain in this part of the world. – Ronald Sole Mar 30 at 14:33
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    I've never heard anyone say "pouring with rain." It may be a usage specific to British English. – farnsy Mar 30 at 14:47
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You are correct in British English at least.

It can "be pouring with rain", the rain can be "pouring". The commentator is wrong "It was pouring rain" does not work.

Note that "pouring with rain" is a particular kind of rain; as if someone was tipping it out of a bucket. Its not "fine rain", and its not "spitting" rain and its not torrential necessarily

We have as many words or kinds of rain as eskimos allegedly do for snow.

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    In the US you will commonly hear the "it was pouring rain" sentence. – m_a_s Mar 30 at 15:41
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    In AmE the phrase is almost exclusively, "pouring rain". Inclusion of 'with' will be understood but will sound odd. – EllieK Mar 30 at 15:43
  • Interestingly, the proverb "when it rains, it pours" is used in AmE, although "pour" is a verb here. "To pour with rain" is not common though. – Enguroo Mar 30 at 16:33

Seems like a British English vs American English distinction. "It was pouring with rain" is understandable but does sound unusual to a native AmE speaker.

What is "it"? The sky, or perhaps the weather.

"It is pouring outside" clearly means "rain," and there's no need to explain "with what?" or "what is pouring?" because there is only 1 possible answer.

"It [the sky] is pouring [down] ... rain."

"Pouring" is a transitive verb - there must be a stated or implied direct object being poured. The preposition "with" does not modify either the object (rain), or the verb (pouring), so it's unnecessary and can be omitted.

If you are pouring water into a glass, or onto a potted plant, are you "pouring with water"? No, that's weird. You're merely "pouring [the] water."

"With" does suggest a logical, spatial relationship between the rain and the sky, but that's also obvious and could not be otherwise, so it's still unnecessary.

The sky pours rain. It does not ever "pour" anything else. It could "pour [rain] with gusto" or "pour [rain] with fury," but it still only ever "pours" rain.

Sometimes it is said to be "pouring buckets [of rain]."

Sometimes "it's raining cats and dogs," but it's never "raining with cats and dogs."

What other verbs can the sky perform? It could "dance with light" or "buzz with insects" or "be filled with clouds or stars," ... so in that sense using "with" seems somehow grammatically consistent ...

But in these cases the preposition "with" is necessary to explain the logical, spatial relationship between the sky, the object, and the verb. Insects and light do other things in other places. Clouds or stars are only found there, but the sky can "be filled with" many things so in those cases "with" is necessary to specify the object being discussed. If the sky is pouring anything at all, it's pouring rain.

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