Imagine yourself getting in an elevator during your first day of work in New York City. Two of your coworkers are standing there. You walk in and one of them looks at you and makes the following comment: “I can’t believe it’s going to rain all weekend.”
That’s definitely the start of an elevator small talk about the weather. Weather is one of the most common ‘small talk’ topics because it’s safe – everyone can talk about weather. So how do you relate?
How to describe weather in English
In every conversation you need to contribute something. Don’t just say ‘Yes, it is.” That’s boring! This article will give you the best tools to learn how to have a good conversation about the weather and improve your speaking skills! Let’s take a look at some vocabulary and phrases to help you learn how to talk about the weather in English.
Weather vocabulary you need to know
The best way to learn and remember the basic weather names in English is through pictures. Take a look at the images below to understand all the basic words you need to know.
It is important to understand the difference between these pairs:
- sun / sunny
- cloud / cloudy / partly cloudy
- snow / snowy
- rain / rainy
- storm / stormy
- wind / windy
- fog / foggy
- ice / icy
Review this slideshow, and see if you can tell the differences between the pairs of words.
Sun, cloud, snow, rain, storm, wind, fog, and ice are what we call nouns. We can use them in sentences like these:
- The sun is shining.
- There will be some heavy rain tomorrow.
- Be careful when stepping on ice!
Sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy, snowy, rainy, stormy, windy, foggy, and icy are all words that describe the weather, and they are called adjectives. They are usually positioned before the noun they modify. In the sentence “It is a sunny day“, the word ‘sunny’ is an adjective and it modifies the noun day. Take a look at some more examples:
- It is going to be a cloudy day tomorrow.
- London is known for its rainy weather.
- Will it be a snowy winter?
Seasons and related English vocabulary
Let’s take a look at the seasons. Seasons are usually defined by temperature and weather conditions, so the seasons may depend on your region. For example, in Dubai, there are really only two seasons: summer and winter.
The other seasons are fall (or autumn) and spring. Some students don’t understand the difference between autumn and fall. In theory, they mean the same thing. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “autumn and fall are used interchangeably as words for the season between summer and winter. Both are used in American and British English, but fall occurs more often in American English. Autumn is considered the more formal name for the season”.
Fahrenheit and Celsius
There are two temperature scales being used around the world. In the Celsius scale, which is the most used one, the boiling point of water is 100C, and the freezing point is at 0C. Meanwhile, in the Fahrenheit scale, the water boils at 212F and freezes at 32F. The only three countries that still use the Fahrenheit scale are The United States, Myanmar, and Liberia. You can use an online converter like this one whenever you are in doubt.
Grammar and good phrases to describe weather
Believe it or not, there are particular grammar structures you should know to talk about thew weather. Lucky for you – they’re easy to learn and anyone can use them!
Questions to ask about the weather in English
Asking questions about the weather is pretty simple. The questions typically start with how or what and they use the verb to be in present simple.
Usually the questions are:
- How’s the weather?
- How’s the weather outside?
- How is it outside?
- What’s the weather like?
- What’s the forecast?
- What’s the temperature?
- What’s it like outside?
Notice the final question uses the word like. What’s it like outside? means the same thing as how is it outside? English speakers use the word like to ask people to describe the state or condition of something. Watch this video for more information.
How is it outside? – using the dummy it
Oddly, when people speak about the weather in English, they rarely use the term weather. The best subject of the sentence to use is it. Sometimes people call this the dummy it because does nothing other than serving a grammar function. The dummy it is also used to tell the time and date.
So just remember, whenever someone asks you a question about the weather, you will always use “It’s….“
Here are some examples of answers you can give using the dummy it:
How’s the weather?
- It’s sunny/rainy/cloudy.
- It’s snowing.
- It’s hot/cold.
What’s the temperature?
- It’s 77°F (22°C) outside.
What’s the weather forecast?
- It’s going to be sunny tomorrow.
How’s the weather outside?
- It’s beautiful out.
Present continuous tense and the weather
Remember the present continuous verb tense? Of course, you do! But just in case, here’s a reminder. The present continuous is the verb to be and a present participle (verb + ing). Sometimes people call the present participle a gerund because it has the same form.
So imagine there is rain outside and someone asks you, What’s it like outside?
You can say: It is raining.
Let’s break it down: we have a subject plus to be plus the present participle. All you have to do is take the verb of rain and add -ing to the end.
Tips to learn more about weather and English
Although this article has a lot of information about different weather, we can always use some help from technology. Your phone is always with you, isn’t it? Then follow the simple but efficient tip below so that you always stay up to date with the weather and learn English while doing so.
Change your weather app to English
We use our phones all the time. I don’t know about you, but I check the Weather app several times a day. If your phone still isn’t in English, go to Settings and change it now. Besides helping you remember all the words we just listed, you may learn some new ones.
If you want more information about the weather, you can also download these pretty useful free apps (in English, obviously!):
- The Weather Channel
- Flowx (for Android only)
- Plume Labs: Air Quality App
- Weather Underground
- What the Forecast?!!
- Yahoo Weather
Be careful! Weather versus whether
The words weather and whether are what we call homophones. They may sound the same, but they do have different spellings and meanings. Remember that the second word, whether, is a conjunction used to express possibilities. Here are some examples:
- I don’t know whether I should go to that party tonight.
- The professor asked whether he wanted to meet before or after class.
- Her mom didn’t know whether she was going to the beach with Mike or to the mountains with Julia.
Learn more about English homophones and even practice them with games and exercises.
Games and exercises to learn more about weather and the natural world
In order to be able to talk about the weather in English, it’s important that you practice everything you have just learned. Here are some games and exercises for you to have fun while practicing the weather vocabulary in English (weather ESL).