A Chance of Showers

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Thanks to a two-week run of rain in my part of the country, a local announcer’s repeated prediction of showers has finally driven me to write a post on his use of what to my ears is unidiomatic usage: “a chance for” in the context of weather.

The established weather idiom is “a chance of,” as in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Wondering if it was just the local man’s quirk, I did a Google search and found the unidiomatic use of “chance for” on weather sites in other parts of the country:

Sun with a Chance for Showers (WFMZ-TV Eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey)

Mostly Cloudy with a Chance for Scattered Showers (WBNS Columbus OH)

Cooler with a Chance for Showers (KRCR Redding/Chico CA)

A Google search indicates that the use of “chance for” is much less common when the anticipated weather is snow or plain rain.

It’s difficult to discuss preposition use because so often the “correct” usage is idiomatic.

Although the “chance for” weather usage is most frequent on the airwaves, I did a search on the print-based Ngram Viewer to get a sense of general usage. The combination “chance for showers” is not found at all. “Chance for rain” does produce a result, very close to nil; the usage rises slightly in the late 1980s.

An Ngram search for “chance of” and “chance for” shows a distinct preference for of as the preposition to follow chance and chances.

The bottom line is that of is the most usual preposition used with the noun chance in most contexts. Here are some examples:

LeBron asks: What are the chances of making 10 free throws in a row?

A Statistician’s View: What Are Your Chances of Winning the Powerball Lottery?

What are the chances of 366 strangers all having a different birthday?

What is the chance of an asteroid hitting Earth and how do astronomers calculate it?

When the preposition for follows chance, the suggestion seems to be that a positive outcome is regarded as desirable:

“The Chance for Peace” (Title of an address by D.W.Eisenhower)

A chance for Mississippi to get out of the educational basement
Persian Leopards: Large Cats with a Small Chance for Survival
What Are the Chances for IVF Success?

Rain, snow, showers, and thunderstorms may or may not be desirable, but so far, the standard preposition to use when anticipating their chances is of: Muggy with a Chance of Rain.

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6 thoughts on “A Chance of Showers”

  1. Focus on the meaning of chance and the object of the preposition or conjunction.

    …chance of showers
    …chance of winning the lottery
    …chance that Richard will get a job
    …chance for Richard to get out of the house

    With chance of and chance that, chance is synonymous with probability. Try substitution:

    …probability of showers
    …probability of winning the lottery
    …probability that Richard will get a job

    In either “chance of” or “chance that,” either a value judgment (a slim chance) or a numerical answer (an 80% chance) may be acceptable.

    In the fourth case, chance takes on the meaning, opportunity.

    …opportunity for Richard to get out of the house

    An opportunity is desirable, which agrees with what the article says. But I would offer that the reason we use ‘for’ rather than ‘of’ lies in the different meanings of ‘chance’.

    “Chance for showers” creates an ambiguity. Chance for showers to do what?

  2. Agree that the definition of chance (which has more than one) dictates the preposition it takes. In the case of meaning “probability” it must be “of”. More broadly, prepositions seem to cause a lot of confusion and sloppy usage, as the topics of many posts here attest. “Bored of”, “on accident”, etc. Don’t know why this happens except for laziness. The fact that these are idiomatic should reinforce, not detract from, their proper use. Bored of and on accident should sound wrong, even to an uneducated ear. That’s what an idiom is, after all.

  3. Chance for showers to do what?
    I think that would be a “chance for showers to shower”. A very informative statement.

  4. What drives me around the bend is when the news channel weatherperson says something like this: “And there’s a chance of rain into Bangladesh.” Why “into” for goodness’ sake?

    My ear registers this usage as unidiomatic, but I hear it nearly every day on one prominent international news channel.

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