As I empathized with her and said, "It's so hard to stay dry outside today.... I am just dreading when I have to go out," she looked over at me with a huge smile. I asked her what she was so happy about. She said, "Do you know when I came to Puerto Rico from the US some twenty years ago, someone said that phrase to me, "raining cats and dogs"? Do you wanna know what I did? I got up and looked out the window because I thought... wow everything happens in the US, even dogs and cats fall from the sky! I was sorely disappointed when I did not see any cats or dogs and couldn't even see the next building because it was raining so hard! I felt like an idiot. What did this phrase "rain cats and dogs mean"? I got up the courage to ask my colleague who said that to me, who told me it meant that it was raining really, really hard, like pounding rain. Now, today, I looked at you, used that idiom with an American and you totally understood me, and I felt like now I can speak American English.... to an American... and you understand me!"
The story I told above is very common. It could happen any day, anytime, anywhere with anyone! Maybe you are walking into a Starbucks or into a gas station in the US during a rainstorm, and a similar conversation could ensue. That's because of all small talk topics, Americans love to talk about (read, complain about) the weather.
While there are many ways to talk about the rain in the US depending on how hard or light it is falling, Andrea from ESL Basics shares four ways in the video below.
Some other rain-related vocabulary includes:
Downpour - A lot of rain falling at once, usually hard hitting
Drizzle - light rain, misty
Pounding down - hard rain, so hard you can hear it hitting the house
Raining really hard
Sprinkling - light rain, similar to drizzle
Feel free to add more rain-related terms in the comments section of this blog!
Keeping up to date with the weather is an obsession for many Americans. Many local tv stations play weather reports every hour, on the hour. Learning the English of your local area can be made easier by watching the local news (not cable news) to watch the weather report that is chocked full of idioms, phrases, local slangs and local accents. Check out this post to see and hear what I am talking about.
To learn more about idioms used during professional conversations, see the PDF below.
Jennifer Kumar helps Indians and other expats in the US building understanding and empathetic relationships with their American counterparts at work.
Safe small talk topics by Andrea
Phrases used in American Restaurants