Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)


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Hello English learners and music lovers. Welcome to Explained in English. My name is Ki and today I'm explaining the song Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

This is definitely one of my favorite songs by CCR or Creedence Clearwater Revival. To me, the song is about the toughness of life, going through difficult times. It uses weather events like rain, storms, and sunshine as symbols or metaphors for these hard times in life. We can hear one of those weather references in the title and the chorus of the song, which says: Have you ever seen the rain?

Anytime you ask a question like “Have you ever?”, you're asking a very open question to someone. You don't know the answer, but you're curious. Imagine that yesterday you saw the movie Star Wars, and you want to know if someone else also watched that film. You could say... have you ever seen Star Wars? I saw it yesterday. Have you ever seen it?

Here's another example. Imagine that you really love the song Yesterday by The Beatles. You might ask a friend: Have you ever heard the song Yesterday by the Beatles? It's great. I love it. Here are just a couple other examples of that. You could say… Have you ever been to the United States? Or… Have you ever gone skiing? So, anytime you have an open question, this is a great structured use: Have you ever? Alright, let's get into the lyrics. It begins:


[Verse 1]
Someone told me long ago
Someone is an unspecified person. It could be anybody, maybe a friend or a family member. We don't know. This someone is an unidentified person. Someone told me. Told is the past tense of the verb tell. So, in the past this unnamed person told or said something to him. Whenever you tell someone something, then you're using words or your voice to send or communicate a message. Ago always references the past. We use it to talk about when something happened. For example, I could say I moved to Europe five years ago. Or, one month ago, I started a new job. In this example, he says someone told me long ago. Long ago isn't very specific, but it means deep in the past, likely many years ago. So, he's remembering what someone told him many years back. Someone told me long ago…

There's a calm before the storm
So, here we have our first weather reference: a storm. There's a calm before the storm. Storms are usually seen as bad weather. They're kind of violent and can be dangerous. During a storm there may be lots of rain, heavy wind. You may also hear that loud booming thunder (*boom*), and then lightning -- flashes of lightning. Storms can really be with any type of weather. It could be rain, it could be snow, it could be sand, it could be wind. A storm is just very, very intense, extreme weather. In this line he says there's a calm before the storm. Oftentimes before a storm you have very calm, peaceful, quiet and tranquil weather. And that's what the word calm means. It's associated with a lack of movement, when everything is settled, everything is resting or not changing much. That means it's calm. He says there's a calm before the storm. In a sequence of events, what is before comes first. Think of the numbers 1, 2, & 3. The number one comes before two, and the number two comes before the number three. So, whenever we use a word like before, we're talking about the order that events happen in. For example, before you eat food, you have to cook it. Or, before you sleep, you go to bed. In this line, there's a calm before the storm, that means first there's a calm and then there's a storm. So, just before the storm comes, just before things get really bad, there's this moment of calm and quiet in peace. We can think of this line literally, but probably he's talking about life, and how there are moments in life where everything seems good and easy and peaceful and calm, and then it gets really hard, really difficult. Someone told me long ago. There's a calm before the storm…

I know
It's been coming for some time

I know just acknowledges that he's aware. He understands that the storm is on its way. He's saying, “Yep, I knew it was coming.” I knew it was headed this way. I know it's been coming for some time. So, if something is coming then it's moving in your direction. In this case, he's talking about the storm. He’s saying the storm will soon be a reality in his life. It's been coming for some time. For some time means for a while. He doesn't say how long exactly, but for some time means for quite a long time. He knows that the storm has been on its way for a lot of time now. The verse continues:

When it's over so they say
When it's over means at the point that it's finished. Whenever we've stopped or completed something, we say that it's over, it's done. Here, it says when it's over. It could either be the storm or it could be the calm. We don't know for sure, but I think he means the storm. When it's over so they say. Anytime there's something that people say frequently or very commonly, you can use the expression “so they say”. It means this is something that people say often. So, one thing that they, or people in general say, is that when the storm is over…

It'll rain a sunny day
It'll rain is the future. It's the short or contracted form of it will rain; it'll rain. Rain is used as a verb here. It means any time the water or raindrops fall down from the clouds in the sky. So, when it rains, the whole ground, the whole earth gets wet. Usually, when it rains there's a lot of clouds in the sky. However, here it says it'll rain a sunny day, which is short for it'll rain on a sunny day. This is a strange line because usually when it rains then it's not sunny outside. A sunny day means that the sun is out and shining brightly. So, the skies are usually blue. There aren't very many clouds to block the sunlight. And so, anytime that the sun is shining and it's pleasantly warm outside. You can call that a sunny day. When it's over, so they say, it'll rain a sunny day…

I know, shinin’ down like water
You probably all know already what water is. It's the most essential liquid in the world. All living things need water to survive. This line says, shining down like water. Shining down. This is the verb to shine. This verb goes with any bright light. For instance, sunlight. Sunlight shines down on the earth. So, if something is shining then it's giving off light. Another example might be a flashlight. In the dark, you can use a flashlight to shine light and see where you're going. Or, if you have a car, your headlights shine light on the road and help illuminate your surroundings. Shining down. Remember this is a sunny day, and the sun is up in the sky. So, it shines down. But here, it says that it's shining down like water. So, to him the sunlight is like water, it's like rain. That is, he's having a hard time seeing the sunlight like most people do. Instead of seeing it like a sunny bright day, he sees it like a rainy, dark day. And now we get to the chorus where he says:

I want to know…
Have you ever seen the rain?

I want to know. The verb want expresses your desire for something. Whenever you have a wish or a longing for something you could say that you want it Here, he says he wants to know. So, he wants to have knowledge of something, he wants to have an awareness of something. Knowing usually means having information and facts, but it can also mean that you understand the situation. So, he's going to ask us that open question: I want to know… have you ever seen the rain? If you have seen something, then you have viewed it or observed it with your eyes. However, the verb see also means to experience something. He's asking us: Have you ever seen the rain? That is, is there any time in your past or in your lives where you saw or experienced this rain? He's asking us if we have ever gone through something similar or can we understand him and what he's saying? I want to know have you ever seen the rain…

Coming down on a sunny day
As I said before, usually on a sunny day it's not raining. But for him, that's the way that it is. Verse 2 begins:

[Verse 2]
Yesterday and days before
Yesterday. Yesterday is the day before today or the previous day. For example, if today is Monday, then yesterday was Sunday. Yesterday means one day in the past. If today's Friday, then that tells us that yesterday was Thursday. Yesterday and days before. And days before means all the days even further in the past, behind yesterday. It's a general reference to the past. So, yesterday and days before…

Sun is cold and rain is hard
The sun is that bright star that we see in the sky, and usually the sun is very hot. But here, it says the sun is cold. If something is cold, then that means the temperature is very low. It's really the opposite of what we would usually think. Sun is cold and rain is hard. If something is hard then that means it's difficult or challenging. Hard is the opposite of easy. It means that you really struggle to do something. However, if it's raining hard then that means that it's raining a lot; it's really coming down. What I think he's saying is that the rain that he feels in his life is very difficult, very hard for him. Yesterday and days before, sun is cold and rain is hard…

I know! Been that way for all my time
Been that way is short for it has been that way, meaning that this situation or this way of experiencing life, has been his reality for a very long time. It's existed for all his time. When he says been that way for all my time, he means for his whole life. It's been like that. It's been this way. This grammatical structure is actually a great way to talk about anything that started in your past and continues happening even now. For example, I've been a teacher for many years now. That means, I started being a teacher in the past and I'm still a teacher. Here, he says, “I know, been that way for all my time”...

‘Till forever on it goes
‘Till, in ‘till forever, is short for until. Until means up to a certain point. For example, imagine someone's giving you directions, they say, “Okay, go straight until you get to the stop sign and then turn right” Or, I could say “Today, I want to work until 6 p.m. and then I'll take a break” In this line it says, until forever on it goes. Forever means without end or never ending. So, until forever means for all time. Forever on is short for on and on, which means it just keeps going, never stopping. ‘Till forever on it goes…

Through the circle Fast and slow
Through the circle. The circle is one of the most basic shapes. A circle is round like a wheel of a car or a bicycle. When we look at the sun in the sky, we also see it as circular. Here, it says through the circle. Going through an object means going from one end to the other end. That is, entering on one side and then exiting on the other side. Think of a tunnel. You enter the opening, you drive or go through the tunnel, and then exit on the other side. In a more figurative sense, going through something means experiencing a situation, usually a challenging or a difficult one. Through the circle here probably means going through life's difficulties, or at least going through the cycles of life. Remember that a circle is a shape which goes on forever. It never really stops. Circles just keep going round and round and round, neverending. Through the circle, fast and slow. Here we have two different speeds: fast and slow. Fast means quick or rapidly. Something moving fast covers a lot of distance in a short amount of time. Slow is the opposite of fast. It means it's moving in a languid, sluggish way. Whatever is happening slow is not happening quickly. Through the circle fast and slow…

I know! It can't stop I wonder
If something stops then the activity ceases. Stopping means that whatever was happening comes to an end. Here he says it can't stop. That means it's not able to stop or it's not possible for it to stop. So, this way that he's experiencing life, this hard rain and this cold sun; he doesn't believe it will ever end. It can't stop, I wonder. To wonder is a great verb, it means to think about or ponder a situation. Basically, when you wonder, you're stopping to think and consider a situation; you're wondering about it.


So, it sounds to me like the writer of this song, John Fogerty, was really wondering. It's kind of a sad situation. He even sounds a little bit depressed to me. There's this dread of knowing that the good things in life can't last forever. The good things are like the calm before the storm. Eventually though, everything goes bad, everything gets intense. He knows the storm is coming and when it arrives, he knows it will have an effect on his life.

Later on, the storm does end. It's over and the sun is shining, but for him, he's kind of trapped, he’s stuck. It still feels like it's raining. The sun should be giving him warmth and comfort but instead he experiences it as cold. And this state seems to last for a long time. He seems to have come to some kind of conclusion or acceptance that this is just the way life is, and that he can't really escape it. It can't stop.I think it's out of this state that he asks the question: Is there anyone else out there like me? Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day? It's a very searching question, kind of looking for someone who understands him, so maybe he doesn't feel so alone.

While the song is a little bit pessimistic, I do think that there's a maturity to it. The writer seems to know that life doesn't let us get off easy. It doesn't let us move along without some kind of struggle. And I love how he uses nature to really bring that point home.

Okay, that's it for today's explanation. As an extra way for you to practice these lyrics, I'm including a section where you can repeat each line after me, practicing your pronunciation and really getting used to using these words rather than just understanding them. It will also make it easier to sing along when you listen to the real song. So, stick around for that pronunciation practice, or I will see you in the next explanation, bye bye!



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