What is the difference, if any, between the following two sentences?

(1) The sun sets at 9 P.M. tomorrow.

(2) The sun is setting at 9 P.M. tomorrow.

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  • I'd say with both of those you'd need the definite article "the" at the beginning, and semantically they mean the same thing. If you wanted a better way to say it I'd perhaps go with "Sunset is at 9 P.M. tomorrow." – John Clifford Feb 3 '16 at 15:02
  • In addition to adding the as the previous comment suggests, you also should make them future tense- will set or will be setting respectively. After that, as said, the meanings are identical. – cobaltduck Feb 3 '16 at 15:03
  • @JohnClifford thanks for pointing out the missing articles (I'm not a native speaker). I would like to get a detailed answer from a native speaker. I'm sure you're one, so please post an answer if you can. – user132181 Feb 3 '16 at 15:04
  • @cobaltduck so, the second one does not sound weird to a native speaker's ear? – user132181 Feb 3 '16 at 15:05
  • @user132181: Yes, it does. If you change to "The sun is setting right now" (present tense) or "The sun will be setting at 9pm tomorrow" (future tense) then it will be fine. – cobaltduck Feb 3 '16 at 15:08

Semantically they mean the same thing, though

The sun is setting at 9 P.M. tomorrow.

Might throw up red flags for some people as it should really use future tense:

The sun will set/will be setting at 9 P.M. tomorrow.

However, it's technically acceptable as a colloquial-ish usage: it's not dissimilar to saying something like "My test results are arriving at noon tomorrow." Not massively common usage, but some people do say it like that.

If you want to make it completely unambiguous, you could instead say

Sunset will be at 9 P.M. tomorrow.

(Credit to cobaltduck for the point about future tense)

  • 1
    Thank you for the meaningless internet points! :D And you're welcome. – John Clifford Feb 3 '16 at 15:15
  • 2
    Your assertion that it really should use future tense is not helpful here. This is a standard use of the present continuous. There's no requirement to use the modaql verb will here. – Araucaria Feb 3 '16 at 17:00

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