Share this

US /ˈhæp.ən/ 
UK /ˈhæp.ən/ 

Oxford Essential Dictionary


 verb (happens, happening, happened )
to take place, usually without being planned first:
How did the accident happen?
Did you hear what happened to me yesterday?

happen to do something to do something by chance:
I happened to meet Tim yesterday.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


happen S1 W1 /ˈhæpən/ BrE AmE verb [intransitive]
[Date: 1300-1400; Origin: hap ( ⇨ ↑happy)]
1. when something happens, there is an event, especially one that is not planned SYN occur:
When did the accident happen?
It’s impossible to predict what will happen next.
something/nothing/anything happens
Something terrible has happened.
She carried on as if nothing had happened.
This was bound to happen sooner or later.
This kind of thing happens all the time.
We’ll still be friends, whatever happens.
2. something/anything/what happens to somebody/something if something happens to someone or something, they are affected by an event:
He should be here by now – something must have happened to him.
The same thing happened to me last year.
What’s happened to your coat? It’s all ripped.
3. happen to do something if you happen to do something, you do it by chance:
I happened to see James in town.
4. somebody/something happens to be something used when telling someone something in an angry way:
This happens to be my house!
5. as it happens/it just so happens used to tell someone something that is surprising, interesting, or useful:
As it happens, I know someone who might be able to help.
6. these things happen used to tell someone not to worry about a mistake they have made, an accident they have caused etc:
It’s not your fault – these things happen.
7. whatever happened to somebody/something? used to ask where a person or thing is now:
Whatever happened to Steve? I haven’t seen him for years.
accidents (will) happen at ↑accident(5)
• • •
happen used especially when talking about events that have not been planned: When did the accident happen? | Something terrible has happened!
take place to happen – used especially when talking about events that have been planned or that have already happened: The conference will take place on the 16th of June. | The competition took place on Saturday 30th June.
occur formal to happen – used especially when talking about events that have not been planned: The incident occurred outside the police station at around 9 pm.
there is/there are used when saying that a particular event happens: There was an earthquake about a week ago. | There are strikes almost every year.
come up to happen – used about problems, questions, or opportunities: There aren’t any jobs at the moment, but we’ll let you know if something comes up. | This question often comes up when I’m talking to students.
arise formal to happen unexpectedly – used about problems, arguments, or difficult situations: A dispute arose about who should receive the money. | It is best to deal with the problem as soon as it arises.
crop up to happen – used about problems or difficult situations, especially ones that are less serious, and can quickly be dealt with: The banks will contact their customers if a problem crops up.
strike to happen suddenly and unexpectedly – used about very bad events: The hurricane struck at around 1 am. | Disaster struck, and he lost all movement in his legs.
turn out to happen in a particular way: Luckily, everything turned out well. | How did it all turn out?
happen on/upon somebody/something phrasal verb literary or old-fashioned
to find something or meet someone by chance SYN come across:
I happened on the restaurant by chance.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary




hap·pen [happen happens happened happening]   [ˈhæpən]    [ˈhæpən]  verb
1. intransitive to take place, especially without being planned
You'll never guess what's happened!
Accidents like this happen all the time.
Let's see what happens next week.
I'll be there whatever happens.
• Is this really happening or is it a dream?

• I don't know how this happened.

2. intransitive to take place as the result of sth
She pressed the button but nothing happened.
• What happens if nobody comes to the party?

• Just plug it in and see what happens.

3. linking verb to do or be sth by chance
~ to be/do sth She happened to be out when we called.
You don't happen to know his name, do you?
This happens to be my favourite restaurant.
• The door happened to be unlocked.

it happens that… It happened that she was out when we called.

4. transitive ~ to be/do sth used to tell sb sth, especially when you are disagreeing with them or annoyed by what they have said
That happens to be my mother you're talking about!
more at accidents will happen at  accident, in the event of sth/that sth happens at  event, shit happens at  shit, an accident/a disaster waiting to happen at  wait  v.
Idioms: anything can happen  as it happens  it so happens that …  these things happen
Derived: happen on something  happen to somebody
Verb forms:

Word Origin:
late Middle English (superseding the verb hap): from the noun hap ‘chance’ + -en.  
happen verb I
How did the accident happen?
take placecome aboutcome uppresent itselfturn outmaterializecrop up|formal occurarise
a change happens/takes place/comes about/occurs/arises
an event/accident happens/takes place/occurs
be likely to happen/take place/come about/come up/materialize/crop up/occur/arise 
Example Bank:
Don't just sit back and let it happen.
I don't remember learning to swim, it just happened.
Mistakes are bound to happen sometimes.
She couldn't quite believe that all this was actually happening to her.
She didn't know what was happening to her.
Sometimes fun activities just happen spontaneously; at other times they take careful planning.
They could only wait and see what was going to happen.
What tends to happen is that students spend the first week of the course in a blind panic, but settle down by the second or third week.
You have to make things happen if you want them to happen.
Change doesn't happen overnight.
I don't know how this happened.
I'll be there whatever happens.
Just plug it in and see what happens.
Let's see what happens next week.
• She couldn't believe that all this was actually happening.

• You'll never guess what's happened!

Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary - 4th Edition

happen / ˈhæp. ə n / verb [ I ] (HAVE EXISTENCE)

A2 (of a situation or an event) to have existence or come into existence:

No one knows exactly what happened but several people have been hurt.

Anything could happen in the next half hour.

A funny thing happened in the office today.

I don't like to think what might have happened if he'd been driving any faster.

happen to sb A2 If something happens to someone or something, it has an effect on them and changes them in some way:

I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to him (= if he was hurt, became ill, or died) .

What happened to your jacket? There's a big rip in the sleeve.

What's happened to my pen? (= Where is it?) I put it down there a few moments ago.


happen / ˈhæp. ə n / verb [ I ] (CHANCE)

C1 to do or be by chance:

[ + to infinitive ] They happened to look (= looked by chance) in the right place almost immediately.

[ + (that) ] Fortunately it happened (that) there was no one in the house at the time of the explosion.

[ + that ] It just so happens that I have her phone number right here.

She happens to like cleaning (= she likes cleaning, although that is surprising) .

I happen to think he's right (= I do think so, although you do not) .

As it happened (= although it was not planned) , I had a few minutes to spare.

© Cambridge University Press 2013

Collins Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary


 happens, happening, happened

 1) VERB Something that happens occurs or is done without being planned.
  We cannot say for sure what will happen...
  The accident happened close to Martha's Vineyard.
 2) VERB If something happens, it occurs as a result of a situation or course of action.
  She wondered what would happen if her parents found her...
  He trotted to the truck and switched on the ignition. Nothing happened.
 3) VERB When something, especially something unpleasant, happens to you, it takes place and affects you.
  [V to n] If we had been spotted at that point, I don't know what would have happened to us...
  [V to n] It's the best thing that ever happened to me.
 4) VERB If you happen to do something, you do it by chance. If it happens that something is the case, it occurs by chance.
  [V to-inf] We happened to discover we had a friend in common...
  [V to-inf] I looked in the nearest paper, which happened to be the Daily Mail...
  [it V that] If it happens that I'm wanted badly somewhere, my mother will take the call and phone through to me here.
 5) PHRASE: V inflects, PHR with cl You use as it happens in order to introduce a statement, especially one that is rather surprising.
  She called Amy to see if she had any idea of her son's whereabouts. As it happened, Amy had.

Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary



hap·pen /ˈhæpən/ verb -pens; -pened; -pen·ing [no obj]
1 : to take place especially without being planned : occur
• Mistakes/Accidents will happen.
• Something like that was bound to happen sooner or later.
• You never know what's going to happen when they get together.
• What happened at school today?
• “What's happening?” “They're installing new equipment.”
2 not used in progressive tenses
a : to do or be something by chance - followed by to + verb
• The children happened to be asleep when we called.
• I happened to overhear their conversation.
• I happen to know his brother.
• Do you happen to know the way to the station?
- used with it to describe something that occurs by chance
It (so) happened that the children were asleep when we called.
It happened to rain that day.
• As it happened, it rained that day.
It (just so) happens that I know his brother.
- used to make an angry or forceful statement; followed by to + verb
• The woman you've been looking at happens to be my wife!
• I happen to think that the movie was actually very good.
happen along or happen by [phrasal verb] US literary + old-fashioned : to come to or by a place by chance
• He was about to leave when his old girlfriend happened by.
happen into [phrasal verb] happen into (a place) US : to enter (a place) by chance
• She happened into the room just as the music started.
happen on/upon [phrasal verb] happen on/upon (someone or something) literary + old-fashioned : to find or meet (someone or something) by chance
• She happened on a little cottage in the woods.
• I happened upon them at the grocery store.
happen to [phrasal verb] happen to (someone or something) : to affect or involve (someone or something) as the result of an event or action
• An odd thing happened to me on my way to the office last week.
• I wonder what/whatever happened to that guy. [=I wonder where that guy has gone and what he has been doing] especially; : to affect (someone or something) in a bad or harmful way
• I promise nothing will happen to you.
• What happened to the car? There's a big scratch on the fender.