Question 1:

When dark clouds touch each other in the sky when it's about to rain and the whole sky lights up, does the sky start lightning or does it start thundering?

Question 2:

When a bolt of electricity suddenly hits the ground and makes a huge deep noise, do you say A lightning bolt just struck the ground or A thunderbolt just struck the ground?

I did a quick research on Google images, and it shows that lightning and thundering are the same things. This is confusing even in my native tongue (Portuguese). We also have different words for describing what happens to the sky when it rains, but people mix them up all the time.

  • 1
    Lightning is a noun; thundering is a verb. – Michael Harvey Apr 30 '19 at 21:45
  • Please next time also do more than a quick Google Images search – look up the words you're having doubts about in a dictionary (such as ldoceonline.com) and carefully examine the definitions. If one dictionary doesn't help or isn't conclusive, try another (see the list here). Good luck. – user3395 May 1 '19 at 0:43
  • The sky / storm starts to produce / generate [verb] thunder and lightning [nouns]. – Jason Bassford May 1 '19 at 4:18

You are confused on the types of words.

There is a noun "Lightning".

Lightning is a huge spark between clouds.

Then there is a noun "thunder"

You can see the lightning before you hear the thunder.

It is possible to use "thunder" as a verb (meaning to produce thunder), but it is normally used metaphorically. It means "shout", or make a loud noise.

The train thundered by.

We never say "the sky starts lighting". We don't normally say "The sky starts thundering". We could say "It is starting to thunder" or "The lightning is starting".

Similarly "Lighting bolt" is the literal bright spark of electricity. "Thunderbolt" is the same, but tends to be used figuratively.

A lightning bolt struck the tree in our garden, setting it on fire.

Zeus is god of the thunderbolt.

The news of the king's death hit her like a thunderbolt.

Use of "lightning" as a verb is non-standard and childish.

Mommy, it's thundering an' lightninging an' I'm scared!

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  • is it possible to use lightning as a verb too? I just heard it in a video. youglish.com/search/thundering%20? – Kaique Apr 30 '19 at 21:56
  • There's a related post that says you can english.stackexchange.com/questions/85207/… – Kaique Apr 30 '19 at 22:00
  • 1
    No. In standard English, "lightning" is not a verb, nor is it a gerund or particple of a verb. It is a noun. "Lightning" as a verb may rarely appear as a childish error, but not in standard adult English. – James K Apr 30 '19 at 22:02

You don't say "the sky starts lightning'. Lightning is a noun, meaning an electric discharge between a cloud and another cloud, or a cloud and the ground. Thunder is the sound you hear because the air is heated suddenly by the lightning. They are not the "same thing". Lightning is what you see; thunder is what you hear. You can't have one without the other. A thunderbolt is a flash of lightning so near you that you see it and hear the thunder at the same moment.

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  • Actually oine can, in effect, have one without the other. Silent lightning occurs when it is too distant to hear the thunder, and thunder without lightning often occurs when the spark is hidden, perhaps by clouds, or by the horizon, or by buildings or other obstacles. However, both will be there even if not perceived. – David Siegel May 1 '19 at 1:48
  • Yes, distant lightning is accompanied by thunder for those near enough to hear it. – Michael Harvey May 1 '19 at 6:01

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