looks like rain

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Sat May 8 06:39:20 UTC 1999

We used to have a formal (prescriptive) way of distinguishing: "It looks
like rain" (= the air/sky looks rainy/rain-filled) vs. "It looks as if it's
going to rain."  I believe (Standard) German does the same, right?  'wie' =
like vs. 'als ob' =as if; similarly, 'nach' implies 'toward', 'going to',
as in "nach Hause."  Now, of course, "It looks like it's going to rain"
would be the full predictive form.  My students, in fact, are increasingly
unaware of "as if"; have others also found this to be the case?

At 09:49 AM 5/7/99 -0700, you wrote:
>Here in Oregon we often have the opportunity to remark that "It looks like
>rain." In fact, if it's not raining, that just means that it's about to.
>But "It looks like rain" could be said when one examines a few raindrops
>on the pavement and distinguishes them from, for example, drops of sweat;
>or when one surveys the western sky and predicts an imminent downpour.
>German distinguishes between these two "looks like"s by using "Es sieht
>wie Regen aus." for the first (i.e. identifying the drops on the pavement)
>and "Es sieht nach Regen aus." for the second (i.e. predicting rain).
>(Although I'll admit that a person could see drops on the pavement and
>"predict" that it will soon rain.)
>But does English also have a way of distinguishing these two? I don't mean
>things like "Those look like raindrops." and "I think it's going to / it's
>a-fixin' to rain." And does anyone know whether other languages
>distinguish as does German?
>With best wishes for your own versions of a rainy weekend,
>Peter Richardson

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