Mary woke to the soft light pouring from the window.

Mary woke to the soft light pouring in from the window.

What's the difference? Do they mean exactly the same?

  • They are both idiomatic. I myself wouldn't use the first one—it sounds weird.
    – user85526
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 2:06
  • To me "pouring from the window" has an implication of "pouring out from...", so in that sense they're not the same. But "pouring through the window" might be be better than both, let the context convey they direction.
    – Philip
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 2:11
  • 2
    "Pouring in through the window" is how I would put it, because that's the combination with 'pouring' that seems most idiomatic to me. "Streaming in through the window" sounds even better.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 2:25
  • 1
    talkenglish.com/how-to-use/Pour confirms pour+in and I think through the window is preferable to from the window because light comes from the sun not from a window.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 2:36
  • At present, “light pouring” (which I regard as clunky) occurs about 1/3 as frequently as “light streaming”. I regard “Mary woke to the soft light pouring [in]” (or streaming [in]) as misguided writing; it produces a nice image, but lazily and ambiguously suggests either the light woke Mary or Mary saw the light when she awoke. Use another word or two and rewrite it. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


Pouring from the window is poetic license. In my experience, it is not what I hear people say ordinarily (often).

It is used here, I'm guessing, to give the impression that the source of light is the window itself (like water comes from a spring), instead of the light coming from outside.

The feeling conveyed may be that the room and its occupants are quite separated from what is outside (psychologically or in some other way). It is as if there is nothing beyond the room - even its light from the window is from the window, not from outside.

As comments to the question have indicated, a usual expression would be pouring in from outside or pouring in from the window (window as conduit here, or even as surrogate for the outside light source). Or the same but with through instead of from.

  • To be honest I find this all confusing. (1) "pouring from the window" is commonplace, it's surprising anyone has said otherwise. (just google it) (2) technically it is, certainly, pouring from the window. exactly like water pours from a tap, or blood pores from a cut, or light pours down from the from the opening in the ceiling. You would rarely say "water is pouring in from the tap" or "through the tap" or the like.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 9:28
  • Ha I'm confused now, too
    – wyc
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 10:47
  • @JoeBlow: That's because one often thinks of a water tap as a source of water. One doesn't often think of a window as a source of light. But of course it is, just as much as a tap is a source of water. That's the point. You can think of either in these two different ways (and of course other ways). It's like a state diagram: for a given node, any input can be seen as an input from a source instead of from an intermediate node. A state diagram can be simplified by collapsing intermediate nodes (abstracting). It's all about point of view. From here views the window as a source.
    – Drew
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:27
  • Hi Drew, I'm not sure if you;'re agreeing or disagreeing with me. The point is: "'light pouring from the window' is commonplace. IE: English speakers often say "Light is pouring from the window."
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:30
  • @JoeBlow: I don't know whether they (we) do or do not often say that. My point is that this says something slightly different from Light is pouring in from the window. The denotation is the same, but the connotation is slightly different: The point of view wrt the window (and the outside world) changes. In one case, you are not looking beyond the window for the cause/source; your view of the light (what it is, its cause etc.) stops at the window. In the other, you are not only looking beyond the window, you are pretty much ignoring it (not seeing the window itself).
    – Drew
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:38

Let's have a new innovation on ESO! Answering the actual question! :)

"What's the difference? Do they mean exactly the same?"

1) there is absolutely no difference

2) they mean exactly the same thing

  • It was a moonlit night. As I walked to her parents' house, I knew she was home: there was light pouring from her window. - So, that means the same as pouring in from her window? The version without in is simply ambiguous and needs context to indicate whether it flows in or out. I agree that, given a context, both can well be equivalent.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 15:58
  • The italics text is utterly, perfectly, totally, 100% clear. And it's exactly what you normally say. The light was pouring from her window. (We're on the street - "Look, Steve must still be awake, light's pouring from every window..." Totally normal and straightforward.) Imagine the house was full of water (it's like a tank) and there was a hole. You'd say the water was pouring from the hole.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 16:55

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