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1) It started to rain.

2) It started raining

My grammar book said both are correct and both have almost same meaning. What are the nuances in their meanings?

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  • Does this answer your question? Why is `enjoy to [verb]` incorrect One of the answers talks specifically about “to rain” versus “raining” – ColleenV Apr 28 '20 at 12:36
  • Your book is right. "Start" can take both to- infinitivals and gerund-participial clause complements. There is no difference in meaning in this case. – BillJ Apr 28 '20 at 13:22
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As a Canadian, I agree that these are very close, but in my usage, there is a slight difference in connotation.

Use "it started to rain" to describe the difference between what happened before with what happened after. For example, "We had picked the perfect spot at the park for lunch and everyone laid out the food they had brought. We had just started enjoying the potluck and were having a great conversation, but it started to rain. Everyone quickly packed up and we each headed back home, our picnic ruined."

Use "it started raining" to set the scene for what happened after or to explain actions after. For example, "We had picked the perfect spot at the park for lunch and everyone laid out the food they had brought. We had just started enjoying the potluck and were having a great conversation, when it started raining. We set up a tarp and huddled close together underneath, determined not to let the bad weather ruin our day."

You could switch "it started to rain" with "it started raining" in the above, and it would be understandable / correct, but not as comfortable / pleasant (to my ears at least).

The rain example in the link that Colleen provided (Why is `enjoy to [verb]` incorrect) fits this difference - the baseball game got suspended after the rain started to fall (a large difference in state), whereas after it started raining in Boulder, there was not a dramatic shift in state (although there were actions that were different - flooding in Boulder, huddling under a tarp in example above) - life in Boulder went on and the flooding didn't happen right away.

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