Definition of happen in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhap(ə)n/


[no object]
1Take place; occur: two hours had passed and still nothing had happened the accident happened at 7.40 a.m.
More example sentences
  • The accident happened at the Namuang falls on the island of Koh Samui.
  • Nobody wants an accident to happen but if the present chaos continues it is inevitable.
  • Rather in keeping with the tenor of the match, one of the most significant developments happened by accident.
occur, take place, come about, come off, come into being;
ensue, result, transpire, materialize, arise, be, crop up, come up, fall out, pan out, turn out, follow, develop, emerge, surface, present itself, supervene
North American informal go down
literary come to pass, betide, chance
rare eventuate, hap
1.1Ensue as an effect or result of an action or event: this is what happens when the mechanism goes wrong
More example sentences
  • This conversation mostly focused around what happens in the event of a verdict.
  • There is a whole sequence of events that happens when those pilots take that landing gear handle and retract the landing gear.
  • He said neither of the stars wished to be seen by their public behaving in an unrestrained manner, which is what happens at events such as weddings.
1.2 [with infinitive] Chance to do something or come about: we just happened to meet Paul there happens to be a clash of personalities
More example sentences
  • I happen to be a swede myself!!
  • Five accomplished Hispanic nurses who just happen to be guys talk about the special challenges they face and the unique strengths they bring to the table.
  • I happen to be very good at what I do and I do work unpaid overtime or weekends, both when it's needed or when I just need to pretend that I'm a hard worker.
discover unexpectedly, find unexpectedly, find by chance, chance on, stumble on, hit on, light on, come on, come across, run across, blunder on, unearth, uncover, locate, bring to light;
meet by chance, run into, encounter
informal bump into, dig up
archaic run against
1.3 [with clause] Come about by chance: it just so happened that she turned up that afternoon
More example sentences
  • It just so happened that two weeks ago I was in the Matamata New World.
  • It just so happened that elocution lessons were scheduled for the two older girls for an hour that day.
  • It happened that it was the first convent in Tubbercurry long before the Marist Convent was put into operation.
chance, have the good/bad/ill fortune, have the good/bad/ill luck, be someone's fortune/misfortune
1.4 (happen on) Find or come across by chance: I happened on a street with a few modest restaurants
More example sentences
  • If he goes to sleep often enough in his hotel room, there is less chance of it happening on the pitch.
  • And the chances of that happening on the Down Under tour have narrowed due to England's injury crisis.
  • A van and four cars were involved in the smash which happened on the London-bound track at Boreham.
1.5 [with infinitive] Used as a polite formula in questions: do you happen to know who her doctor is?
More example sentences
  • Did anyone happen to see the alternate ending that is floating around the internet?
  • Did anyone happen to see David Letterman the other night when he was playing "Psychic Salad"?
  • By the way, did you happen to ask the Canadians what they thought of their country's health care system?
2 (happen to) Be experienced by (someone); befall: the same thing happened to me
More example sentences
  • Has anyone else had anything like any of these experiences happen to them before?
  • Courts and academics brush over what actually happens to such videos once they leave the sex shop.
  • The most difficult decision facing the school must be over what happens to Anne Williams.
2.1Become of: I don’t care what happens to the money
become of, be the fate of, be the lot of, overtake, be visited on
literary befall, betide


[sentence adverb] Northern English
Perhaps; maybe: happen I’ll go back just for a while


as it happens

Actually; as a matter of fact: we’ve got a room vacant, as it happens
More example sentences
  • The Potter books actually work for me better as films, as it happens.
  • So this theory of who is the bad wolf was actually brought up on the other thread as it happens.
  • I was, as it happens, offered herbal tea but no one lectured me when I plumped for the caffeine-loaded coffee option.


Late Middle English (superseding the verb hap): from the noun hap1 + -en1.

Words that rhyme with happen


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hap¦pen

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