Vocabulary in English

Talking about the Weather in English: What They Didn’t Teach You at School (Probably)

Talking about the Weather in English

In this lesson, you’re going to learn some words and phrases to talk about the weather in English. Also check out Different Ways to Ask and Tell the Time in English.

Before we start, notice you won’t see the word “weather” here as much as you might think, considering this is a lesson on weather vocabulary.

That’s because we usually know we’re talking about the weather from the context.

So you don’t need to say, “The weather’s sunny.”

We know you’re talking about the weather because you used the word “sunny.”

I mean, you can’t say, “This cake is very sunny,” or “I like your hair. It’s sunny.”

So when we talk about the weather in English, we usually just use the word “it.”

“It’s sunny.”

Good? Nice, let’s get going.

102 Little Drawings eBook

The Weather in English #1

☂ Talking about rainy weather ☂

The English language comes from England, where rain also comes from.

So it’s no surprise that we have a lot of words and phrases related to rain.

What they teach you in school:

It’s raining.
It’s rainy.

OK. These are straightforward, right?

But there’s a small difference here that you should probably bear in mind.

We use “it’s raining” when we just want to describe the weather right now.

But when we say “it’s rainy,” we might be describing the general climate of a place:

“I wouldn’t go there on holiday. It’s really, really rainy.”

or even just the day:

“What a rainy day!”

Weather vocabulary: a rainy day

There are rain clouds on the horizon.

The horizon!

It sounds like some epic destination that space travellers are searching for.

Or a cool bar in Dubai.

But actually, it’s the name for this:

Sketch of the horizon

And when you say you see rain clouds on it, you’re telling people that you think it might rain.

Weather vocabulary: clouds on the horizon

(I just checked and unsurprisingly, there’s a bar in Dubai called “Horizon.”)

Looks like rain.

What looks like rain?

Showers … showers look a bit like rain.

But obviously, this is a short way of saying, “It looks like it’s going to rain.”

But we say, “Looks like rain,” instead.

Because we’re lazy.

And that’s fine.

It’s pouring. / It’s pouring down.

This just means “It’s raining – a lot.”

When I was a kid, we had this weird nursery rhyme:

“It’s raining, it’s pouring
The old man is snoring
He went to bed and bumped his head
and couldn’t get up in the morning.”

Wait. Is he dead? Is the old man dead? Is that what this means?

Did he slip on some water left by the rain?

I never realised how dark this rhyme was.

Downpour

If you want to describe heavy rain in one handy noun, here it is.

“Wow! Look at the sky! Expect a downpour!”

We also use it with the word “sudden” a lot:

“The sudden downpour took everyone by surprise and almost destroyed all the sound equipment.”

The rain dies down.

There’s something I like about sudden downpours.

When you’re walking in the street and there’s a downpour, everyone starts looking for shelter – usually in shops or in shop doorways.

I quite like those moments. Everyone suddenly finds themselves in the same situation.

Sometimes we look at each other and smile because, to be fair, the situation is slightly ridiculous.

Then the rain dies down, and we continue with our day.

Human bonding – all because of the weather.

Out in the pouring rain

So we sometimes talk about the pouring rain.

But when we do, we usually talk about it like a place.

And usually a place that you don’t want to be in:

“When I got home, I realised I’d left my keys behind. I couldn’t get in and was stuck outside in the pouring rain.”

or

“I hate thinking about all those poor homeless people – out in the pouring rain on a night like this.”

Some wet weather / It’s very wet here. / It’s wet out there.

We use the word “wet” a lot.

We use it to describe rainy weather in a very general way.

Maybe we’ve got heavy rain, or maybe it’s light – it doesn’t matter. We still use the word “wet.”

We can use it to describe the word “weather”:

“We had some seriously wet weather over the weekend.”

or a day, week, month or even a year:

“This was the wettest year on record.”

Or, if you’re unlucky, a weekend:

“What a wet weekend. We couldn’t do anything fun!”

It’s drizzling.

This is when rain behaves pathetically.

You know – when it’s not really raining, but it is.

When you can barely notice the rain, but it’s there, making your clothes wet and your hair look silly.

But you can’t even feel it.

In short – very, very, very light rain.

It’s spitting.

Some rain just comes suddenly.

But some comes so slowly that you don’t even notice at first.

There’s one single drop.

Then a minute later another one.

Then another …

That’s when you can say, “It’s spitting.”

Which is kind of disgusting if you think about it.

Light rain / heavy rain

You may have noticed already, but we can use the words “light” and “heavy” to describe how strong the rain is.

Light showers / heavy showers

We can also use “showers” or “a shower” to describe rain.

I most often hear this when I’m watching the weather forecast on TV:

“We’ll have some heavy showers in and around Liverpool and the rest of the country this afternoon, continuing into the evening and into the year 2048.”

The heavens opened.

It happens to all of us.

We’re just sitting there in the sun enjoying ourselves and our massive picnic.

Then suddenly, without any warning, boom! Rain – lots of rain!

Weather vocabulary: sudden downpour

We can use this phrase when we get surprised by a sudden downpour.

“… then the heavens just opened, and we had to find shelter in a nearby shop, which turned out to sell mannequins. We were there for a while.”

Thunderstorm

It’s raining! It’s very windy! And more excitingly, there’s electricity in the sky!

It’s a thunderstorm!

Thunder and lightning

During a thunderstorm, you get this heavy, deep, rumbling sound.

That’s thunder.

And the sky electricity? That’s lightning!

We usually use the word “strike” in the passive when we talk about lightning hitting things or people.

“Careful out there … you don’t wanna get struck by lightning!”

You can hear Marty McFly using this expression in this clip. But he is shouting a lot (as usual), so it’s a bit tricky to hear:

Hail

Sometimes, when I think about the weather properly, I can’t believe it.

I mean – WTF?

Rocks made of ice falling from the sky!

Think about that for a minute.

Crazy, right?

Whenever this ridiculous phenomenon happens, we either go for a verb:

“I don’t believe it! It’s started hailing. Again!”

or a noun:

“There might be some hail later today, according to Google.”

Sleet

It’s trying to be snow, but it’s failing.

Maybe it’s trying to be hail, but it’s failing.

It’s just slightly icy rain.

It still hurts, though.

Damp

This isn’t technically about rain, but it really captures the spirit of a rainy country.

So, let me describe it by complaining, once again, about the weather in England.

England is damp. It’s damp because it’s not just wet, but because the wetness gets everywhere.

You feel it under your skin, even when you’re inside.

Everything you touch feels wet – even when it’s not.

When it’s only slightly cold, you feel freezing.

Why? Because England is damp.

We also use the phrase “cold and damp.” Especially in England, of course.

The Weather in English #2

☀ Talking about sunny weather ☀

What they teach you in school:

It’s sunny.
The sun’s shining.

These phrases are absolutely fine, of course; there’s a reason we learn them in school – they’re very common.

But there are lots of other interesting and common expressions you can use to talk about the weather in English.

The sun’s out!

This means that the sun is not hiding behind a cloud or hiding behind the rest of the earth (otherwise known as night-time).

The sun is there – for you to see and enjoy!

It’s out!

The sun’s come out!

We usually use this expression on a cloudy day.

It basically means “Look! We can see the sun! Let’s enjoy it now before it disappears again!”

Weather vocabulary: the sun has come out

There wasn’t a cloud in sight.

Did you notice that I used the past tense here?

That’s because this phrase is quite descriptive and is great when you want to set the scene for a story.

Maybe you’re writing that novel that will make you famous, and you want to get the atmosphere just right.

Or maybe you’re telling your friends that hilarious story about the time you went on holiday to the Canary Islands and came back with a python in your bag.

Whatever your reasons, this phrase will really help paint a picture for your story.

The sky was blue.

Again, this one is a little descriptive and really creates an image in the mind.

It also helps create a sense of freedom and possibility.

Those days when you don’t have any work to do and you wake up to a blue sky and the freedom to do what you want.

That feeling of expectation just before you end up spending all day on Facebook wondering where the time went.

The Weather in English #3

☁ Talking about cloudy weather ☁

What they teach you in school:

It’s cloudy.

Again, this is a perfectly natural expression. It’s very common and used by more or less everyone.

But there are some other phrases with a bit more nuance:

Overcast

Sometimes it’s just cloudy. You look out of the window and see clouds. Like this:

Weather vocabulary: cloudy

That’s easy to draw, right?

But what if the whole sky is just one massive cloud? The sky is completely just … cloud.

Much more difficult to draw:

Weather vocabulary: overcast

That’s overcast.

You can use this word in a few different ways.

You can say, “It’s overcast.”

Or you can use it with “sky” or “day.”

“She looked up at the overcast sky and wondered if she would ever see the sun again.”

Weather vocabulary: English weather

Grey

Sometimes it’s fun to be a little more expressive.

If you’ve ever lived or stayed in the UK, you’ll be familiar with just how BORING the weather can be.

It rains … but only a little bit.

There are clouds, but it’s just overcast, not beautiful fluffy shapes in the sky.

Maybe the sun will make a brief appearance, but most of the time, it doesn’t.

That’s when you can say the weather’s grey.

We usually use this to describe the weather in the long term:

“The weather in Britain is so grey. Even in the summer.”

For added effect, add the word “miserable.”

“It’s so grey and miserable here. Can we emigrate or something?”

The sun’s gone behind a cloud.

This is what you say when someone has pulled out a gun and is asking you to remember the names of the last twenty US presidents and then write them down on their arm in green pen.

Oh, wait. I got that wrong.

It’s what you say when the sun goes behind a cloud.

The Weather in English #4

🌪 Talking about windy weather 🌪

What they teach you in school:

It’s windy.

OK. Fine.

But not very descriptive, is it?

Light breeze

Your office is too hot?

Well, you could open a window and let the breeze in.

A breeze is nice. It’s a very light wind that makes you feel comfortable when it’s a little too hot.

“She stood on the beach, staring at the sea, feeling the light sea breeze on her face.”

Draught

In U.S. English, this is spelled “draft.”

If a breeze is welcome, then a draught is unwelcome.

We usually talk about a draught as something in a house or a building.

It’s wind that’s getting inside – even though it shouldn’t.

“We need to change these windows. There’s such a draught in here, and we’re spending a fortune on heating.”

Gale

This basically means “a strong wind.”

“There’s a gale approaching from the south. We should probably cut this hike short and get back to the hostel.”

Tornado

OK. Here’s another thing that, when I stop and think about it, I can’t believe exists:

Weather vocabulary: tornado

I mean – seriously?! That’s ridiculous!

Well, it’s ridiculous, and it’s a tornado.

They’re usually short-lived and difficult to predict.

And if you get caught in one, you end up in the Wizard of Oz.

This is also known as a twister.

For obvious reasons.

Hurricane, cyclone and typhoon

Hurricanes are probably the most damaging of the extreme weather in this post.

They’re massive, high-pressure wind storms and can completely destroy towns and cities.

What’s the difference between a hurricane and a cyclone?

Good question.

Well, the answer is a little complicated, but to put it simply, it depends where it’s happening:

  • The north-east Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean have hurricanes.
  • The north-west Pacific has typhoons.
  • And the Indian Ocean has cyclones.

For some reason, we have a habit of giving hurricanes cute names like “Hurricane Sandy” or “Hurricane Katrina.”

Wouldn’t “Hurricane Death” or “Hurricane Run-Away-Now” be better names?

We often use “hurricane” with the word “hit.”

“A massive hurricane is about to hit the coast of California.”

Howling wind

You know when the wind makes that sound, right?

The one that sounds like a ghost?

Or a werewolf?

That’s a howling wind!

The Weather in English #5

🌨 Talking about snowy weather 🌨

What they teach you in school:

It’s snowing.
It’s snowy.

What’s the difference?

Again, the difference between “It’s snowing” and “It’s snowy” is the same as the difference between “It’s raining” and “It’s rainy.”

Use “It’s snowing” when it’s, you know, actually snowing now – when snow is actually falling from the sky.

Use “It’s snowy” to describe the fact that there’s a lot of snow out there – either falling from the sky, on the ground or both.

But there are other ways we can describe snowy weather in English …

Blizzard

Well, you know what a storm is, right?

When rain goes mad and there’s wind and crazy sounds, and it’s very difficult to go outside.

This is the same, but with snow.

So a blizzard is basically a snowstorm.

Icy

OK. This doesn’t actually involve snow.

But where there’s snow, there’s often ice.

Then you can say, “It’s icy.”

Weather vocabulary: icy

Slushy

When the snow melts, we get water.

But what about that bit in between?

When the snow is melting but hasn’t completely gone.

There’s snow and water and everything in between.

That’s slush. Yuck.

Light snow / snowfall

There are different ways we can talk about snow.

When it’s falling from the sky in small quantities, we call it “light snow” or “light snowfall.”

Heavy snow / snowfall

When it’s falling from the sky in large quantities, we call it “heavy snow” or “heavy snowfall.”

Thick snow

When there’s a lot of it on the ground, that’s thick snow.

Thin layer of snow

When there’s only a bit on the ground?

That’s a thin layer of snow.

“There was some light snowfall overnight leaving a thin layer of snow on the ground.”

The Weather in English #6

🌫 Talking about foggy weather 🌫

What they teach you in school:

It’s foggy.

And that’s fine.

But there’s more.

A fog descended.

Although “It’s foggy” is a perfectly fine way of describing the weather, we often use the noun: fog.

When a fog starts appearing, we can use the word “descend,” often followed by where it descended:

A heavy fog has descended on London this morning.”

(Also note that, like with “snow” and “rain,” we use the words “heavy” and “light.”)

The fog lifted.

When the fog finally goes away, and we can see each other again, we say that the fog lifted.

A thick fog

A thick fog is the same as a heavy fog.

I like this – it makes the fog seem like some sort of liquid, which, in many ways, is what it feels like sometimes.

Mist

What’s the difference between “fog” and “mist”?

Good question!

Fog is basically cloud. It’s when a cloud drops so low that we all find ourselves inside it.

Mist involves a more complicated procedure – something about water droplets floating in the air caused by changes in temperature or volcanoes.

So mist is basically flying water.

The Weather in English #7

☀ Talking about hot weather ☀

What they teach you in school:

It’s hot.
It’s boiling.

These are, of course, perfectly fine.

But let’s look at some more expressive phrases:

In the sweltering heat

This is common and sort of makes sense.

The heat can really feel like more of a place than a condition.

So we can use it with the very expressive adjective “sweltering.”

This usually expresses extreme discomfort:

“We had to wait for hours in the sweltering heat with just a small bottle of water and a cucumber.”

Humid

OK. This isn’t technically related to being hot, but it’s when it’s hot that I usually notice the humidity.

Humidity is the level of moisture (water) in the air.

When there’s a lot of water in the air, it’s humid, and that’s when slightly high temperatures can feel really, really high.

That’s when my face starts feeling like a waterfall of sweat.

Like a sauna

Well, saunas are hot.

So if you want to say that the weather is ridiculously hot, you can say, “It’s like a sauna.”

However, don’t say this if you’re actually in a sauna. It would sound a bit weird.

Muggy

This is probably my least favourite type of heat.

Sometimes, when it’s completely cloudy and overcast, the heat gets trapped under the clouds and makes you feel uncomfortable.

The actual temperature may not even be particularly high, but somehow you feel uncomfortable because the heat feels like it’s all around you – suffocating you and making you feel like you want to take all your clothes off and jump in the river.

The Weather in English #8

🌡 Talking about cold weather 🌡

What they teach you in school:

It’s cold.

Yep. It’s cold!

Chilly

When it’s chilly, you feel slightly cold.

Just enough to be uncomfortable.

We usually look a bit like this:

Weather vocabulary: chilly

And we usually say things like this:

“Oooh. It’s a bit chilly here, isn’t it?”

Nippy

This one also means “a bit cold.”

“Nip” means “to pinch, squeeze or bite sharply.”

So we use “nippy” when we feel that the cold weather is biting us a little bit.

Brisk

Sometimes when it’s cold, it feels good, right?

It wakes you up and gives you energy.

That’s when it’s brisk.

Freezing

It means “very cold.”


Great work. If you made it this far, you’re now an expert on talking about the weather in English!

Now, let’s get to know each other a bit more.

Tell me:

  1. What’s the weather like where you are right now?
  2. Would you like to live in another part of the world for better weather? Where?

Answer in the comments!

Did you like this post? Then be awesome and share by clicking the blue button below.

4 thoughts on “Talking about the Weather in English: What They Didn’t Teach You at School (Probably)

  1. I liked your article about the TIME. This one is more funny (drawings) and more interesting. I didn’t know so many expressions about the weather: there are lots of them. It’ll be easy to remember them because of comical pictures. Thank you for sharing.)))

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.