”The rain fell over New York City”. Does this mean that it rained in every place of the city? Or does it state where from the rain fell?

I’m very confused about this.

  • Being a non-native speaker of English the connotation I get from this is more like the first meaning you give. I.e. all-encompassing. But lets see what the native speakers have to contribute. Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 7:27

2 Answers 2


The very first dictionary definition you should find is "extending directly upwards from". The rain clouds must be above the city in order for it to rain there, so as the rain begins to fall it is over the city. For example, if you poured water over somebody, you'd hold the jug or whatever above their head and then pour the water.

It doesn't necessarily mean that it rained everywhere in New York City - rainfall can be scattered. I think you might be thinking of the expression "all over", which idiomatically does mean "everywhere".

In everyday speech, it is probably more idiomatic to say "it rained in New York City", but your example is more dramatic and possibly a style choice. Saying it is raining in New York gives me a mental image of a street scene where it is raining, whereas "it rained over New York" gives me an image of the clouds and the city skyline.

  • I don’t mean to be rude, but could you simplify your answer a bit for a non-native? Are you saying that it is telling us where from the rain began it’s journey down? Thank you for answering!
    – evertgoran
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 8:02
  • @Mixtran2 That is what it literally implies, yes. I'll try and simplify it a little. Don't forget there is also an English language learners site on SE which is more geared towards answering questions from non-natives. This site is for "linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts".
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 8:27
  • Oh, I see! I had no idea. I’ll google it right away! Thank you!
    – evertgoran
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 8:39

The rain fell over New York City = The rain fell upon New York City”

It merely states that it was raining in New York City. The sentence does not say exactly where in the city the rain was falling.

OED>Over preposition

II. In sense ‘on’, ‘upon’.

5.a. On the upper or outer surface of; on top of, upon, esp. so as to be supported by, rest on, or cover (part of) the surface. Also: so as to cover (a hole).

1870 A. Trollope Phineas Finn 39 Sitting with his hat low down over his eyes.

1929 E. Bowen Last September i. v. 48 He was carrying all the rugs he could find slung over his shoulder.

And from elsewhere

2020 Greybeard EL&U "Put a sheet of wood over that hole, otherwise people will fall into it."

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