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The British weather has inspired many paintings, poems and songs over the years. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that many expressions in English make reference to the weather — it’s a simple, easy way of communicating a feeling or concept so that most people will understand. Let’s look at a few weather idioms now.

When you arrive at a party or meeting and don’t know anyone else there, you need to ‘break the ice’ — i.e. you need to do or say something that will introduce yourself to other people and make the situation more comfortable, e.g. ‘Dave broke the ice by offering the other people at the meeting a cup of coffee’.

Sociable people (like Dave in the example above) often make others happy — indeed it can be said that they are ‘a ray of sunshine’. This refers to someone who brings happiness to others (note that it can be used for things as well as people). For example, ‘My dog is a ray of sunshine for me.’

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Let’s stay with this positive theme and learn some weather idioms that are used when things are going well. If you say you feel ‘as right as rain’, you mean you feel fine and healthy. You could go further and say that you are ‘on cloud nine’, which means that you are extremely happy (e.g. ‘I’ve been on cloud nine since I was promoted’).

Whenever times are difficult — or a situation did not end the way we would have liked — we can try to think of the positives that arise, instead of focusing on the negatives. When we do this, we say that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ — for example, if you lose your job but subsequently have more time to devote to your hobbies, you could say ‘every cloud…’ (it’s sometimes not necessary to say any more of the idiom, as most people will understand the message being conveyed from the first two words).

This notion of inclement weather is often idiomatically invoked when trouble is expected. We say that ‘a storm is brewing’ when we suspect that a situation is about to go bad or become combustible. We can also say that the period before an argument or explosive situation occurs is ‘the calm before the storm’. When many bad things happen at the same time, we say ‘it never rains but it pours’, e.g. ‘I lost my job, my wife and my home in the same week. It never rains but it pours.’) When you don’t feel well, you say you feel ‘under the weather’. This means you feel ill.

The expression ‘blowing hot or cold’ refers to the temperature of the wind and is idiomatically used to describe a person’s mood or behaviour as being highly mutable, e.g. ‘my boyfriend’s always blowing hot and cold with me. One minute he loves me, the next I don’t hear from him for days.’

The idiom ‘come rain or shine’ is normally used when someone’s loyalty or determination is beyond doubt. For example, ‘Jessica knew that her best friends would love her, come rain or shine.’ This means that no matter the weather — or, idiomatically, the problems that life brings — Jessica’s friends will be there for her. Or: ‘I will always do my best, come rain or shine.’

Are you feeling ‘snowed under’ by all these idioms? Check out our blog test to see how you manage using English weather idioms.

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Joe Crowley
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