While I was reading Practical English Usage by M.Swan I came across 'situation could be willing' phrase (unit about wish...would usage).

Sometimes we talk as if things or situations could be willing or unwilling, or could insist ot refuse to do things.

I wish it would stop raining.

I can't get the point of the phrase. 'Willing' as an adjective means to ready to do something to me. I know 'willing' could be use along with a noun, for instance 'willing helper', but the phrase situation could be willing seems strange to me.


Humans as a species anthropomorphise things - we assign human traits and characteristics to animals, inanimate objects, natural phenomena and even concepts or ideas. When that happens, we then talk about them as if they are human (or human-like).

When you say "I wish it would stop raining" you've assigned a situation de facto personhood. A person can be willing, so the anthropomorphised situation can now also be willing. Of course, we don't generally think about it in those terms, since anthropomorphising is so common.

This is simply a more formal way of expressing that interesting human foible, which is probably why it sounded odd.


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