In order to answer this question we need to define the terms in
question. I'll present a case with evidence, try to connect you to a
number of resources, then summarize at the end. I'll also cover the
phrase "the rain in spain falls mainly on the plain."
THE RAIN IN SPAIN FALLS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN
You can do what I call a "brute force" search on www.google.com using
the following phrase search (include the quotation marks):
"the rain in spain falls mainly on the plain"
We quickly find from:
South African English Pronunciation
"'The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain' is a phrase reputedly
used by language teachers. Perhaps it is a good example, because it is
a vowel not found in some other languages, Russian, for example. It is
also, however, a vowel that differs in different dialects."
Columbus World City Guide - London - Language
"Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) famously tries to cure Eliza
Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) of this habit in the film, My Fair Lady
(based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion), by making her recite
'The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain' and not 'The rhine in
Spine falls minely on the pline'."
These examples appear to indicate that this phrase exists because of
its phonetic properties, and has nothing to do with the climate in
However, that IS your question, isn't it?
A useful tool for refining our terms, as well as understanding almost
everything to do with Spain, is the Library of Congress, Federal
Research Division publication:
Spain: A Country Study
This US Government document is in the public domain and you can access
it in its entirety at the link above. You can get a list of all other
available Country Studies here:
Country Studies: Area Handbook Series.
You can also use the print version of this book, a Government Document
available at most "Depository Libraries" (University and College, as
well as most large public libraries) in the United States:
Spain, a country study / Federal Research Division, Library of
edited by Eric Solsten and Sandra W. Meditz.
Published Washington, D.C. : The Division : HQ, Dept. of the Army
For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., 1990.
Edition 2nd ed.
SuDoc D101.22:550-179/990 (ask for it by SuDoc number at your
Using the online version, I'll start by defining the "plains" of
"Spain" in a conventionally accepted manner. We'll look at the
geographic definitions supplied in this book.
First, connect to Spain: A Country Study (above) and select the
GEOGRAPHY subsection under the COUNTRY PROFILE section.
These are dynamically generated links, thus I cannot give you a direct
URL. Always start with the main page of this book and just follow the
steps as indicated.
In this GEOGRAPHY section it states:
"Topography: Peninsular landmass predominantly a vast highland
plateau--the Meseta Central--surrounded and dissected by mountain
ranges. Major lowland areas include narrow coastal plains, Andalusian
Plain in southwest, and Ebro Basin in northeast. Islands, especially
Canary Islands, mountainous."
We can thus use as a definition of "plains in Spain" the the narrow
coastal plains, [and the] Andalusian Plain in the southwest. excluding
the major land mass of the Iberian Peninsula, specifically the Meseta
Central, as well as the Canary Islands, and Ebro Basin.
Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment
Gives tells us that for the entire peninsual "Annual rainfall
generally is thirty to sixty-four centimeters; most of the Meseta
region receives about 50 centimeters."
With our terms described, we can start to use www.google.com to search
for Rainfall Statistics in the relevant regions, from which we can
determine if, indeed, "the rain in spain falls mainly on the plain" or
RAIN IN SPAIN
I entered the following search terms in www.google.com (include all
+Spain +"annual rainfall"
and turned up an interesting document:
Agriculture and forestry science and technology
The following statistics regarding rainfall are cited (I converted mm
central plateau (Meseta Central)
38 cm annual rainfall
eastern and southern coast (Coastal Plains)
25-60 cm annual rainfall
30 cm annual rainfall
35 cm annual rainfall
You can even access an online database for retrieving preciptitation
figures (since 1994) at:
This is not for the statistically wary and is EXTREMELY difficult to
use, but can get you current precipitation data for almost anywhere in
MAINLY ON THE PLAIN?
In the end, we turn up varying rainfall all over the Iberian peninsula
and its plains. Sometimes the plains get more rain, sometimes the
Meseta Central does (depends upon WHICH plains). Also, one can choose
to define "rain" to be annual rainfall for a region, or total amount
of water falling in a geographical area. In fact, depending upon what
variable you wish to use, you can make the statement "the rain in
Spain falls mainly on the plain" be either true or false! Just choose
your data for a given area, or time period.
Most of the resources I've mentioned, as well as numerous others you
will encounter should you wish to try for yourself using the sites
(and terms) suggested above appear to support the contention that the
MOST rain is along the coast, with inland plains being substantially
dryer. In that case, the rain does NOT fall mainly on the plains, but
mainly on the coasts (highest levels of precipitation). Then again, if
you mean the coastal plains, then the rain in spain DOES fall mainly
on the plains. Then again, since the Meseta Central is so large, the
total quantity of rain for that "non plains" region (unless you define
it as "high plains") is likely larger than the quantity of water
falling on the defined "plains."
It depends upon which plains and which rains you choose!
The issue appears to be that the phrase is unrelated to geographic and
climate considerations, thus, we are left to determine meaning in any
way we see fit with the tools at our disposal (and perhaps, there are
TOO many of those).
Feel free to ask for clarification should this not be sufficient.