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Why does it sound perfectly natural to say Our flight leaves tomorrow at 6pm but weird to say It rains tomorrow at 6pm? What kind of scenario, if any, could make the rain sentence sound natural?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In continuation with the surety-prediction advocated in the other responses, you might also argue that we never know with a 100% confidence that the flight actually leaves at 6pm tomorrow.

The technically correct usage would be (and because the flight schedule is present) -

"The flight is scheduled to leave at 6pm tomorrow."

"As per the schedule, the flight leaves at 6pm tomorrow."

But for all purposes of common usage, the sentence you quoted in the question suffices for audience communication.

Regarding your query for the rain situation, the only situation where it would sound appropriate, was it coming from a soothsayer, an oracle or a psychic predicting tomorrow's weather. I guess it is within their business obligations to use such sentences to sound mighty-sure and give themselves an aura of invincibility against nature's vagaries.

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Thank you for the great answer. It makes me wonder if someday technology will have progressed to the point such that It rains tomorrow at 6pm would sound completely natural. –  jyc23 Jun 10 '11 at 1:09

Even “it will rain tomorrow at 6pm” sounds wrong, for the same reason Ham and Bacon states—it’s not a known thing. In the former example, though, you’re technically describing a schedule, something that exists in the present, so the present tense can be appropriately used there.

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The reason it is natural is because the fact that the flight is leaving tomorrow at 6p.m. is absolutely known for sure, whereas you are only predicting that it might rain. You can't be entirely sure that it is going to rain, so "will" is used to note that you are predicting it.

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1  
Then why does the sun will rise tomorrow sound better than the sun rises tomorrow? –  Callithumpian Jun 9 '11 at 2:40
    
What if the sun doesn't? :) –  Thursagen Jun 9 '11 at 2:41
3  
Then pigs may fly. –  Callithumpian Jun 9 '11 at 2:48
    
Haha! It's True! Pigs Do Fly! –  Thursagen Jun 9 '11 at 3:00
    
@Calli: I think adding a time makes it right - the sun rises tomorrow at 5:38 am which makes it similar to the flight leaving at –  JoseK Jun 9 '11 at 6:50

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