How to differentiate between ‘happen’ and ‘occur’?

English vocabulary incorporates words used in a sentence to emphasize something in terms of your perception. It is likely for you to get confused between myriads of words used in similar kind of sentences or situations. But with every confusion, there comes a parallel solution. The solution is very simple. You have to dissect the sentences in order to understand the specific word which even after used in a similar connotation to mean something more or less similar actually stand out to be different. Thereby, you have to undergo differentiation. This article is exactly about how you need to understand such differences of words for enhancing requisite English proficiency as put forward by the professionals of EngConvo, one of the top site for spoken English training in India. The differentiate between ‘happen’ and ‘occur are generally used by people to associate with something that takes place or felt. But actually there is a fine line of difference which is necessary to know in terms of acknowledging the perspective one suggests in a given situation.

‘Happen’ is more like a blind prediction that may approach. On the other hand ‘occur’ is more like a definite or sure perception about something that can take place. Here, I am presenting some examples for you.

Sentence A: what will happen if you don’t study hard for the exam?

Sentence B: what will occur if you don’t study hard for the exam?

Now take a critical look of it. We are uncertain about our results in the exam due to multiple factors like

  • Question paper,
  • The perspective of the teacher assessing,
  • The situation in the exam hall, etc.
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Therefore it is seen that the word ‘happen’ is used mostly instead of the word ‘occur.’

Sentence C: A beautiful rainbow may occur after a heavy shower of rain.

Sentence D: A beautiful rainbow may happen after a heavy shower of rain.

I guess you can see which one is used in this regard mostly. Isn’t it ‘occur’? Now the question is why so?

A rainbow is something we are definite about. We are exactly aware of how a rainbow looks like with its VIBGYOR colour spread in a semi-circular angle across the sky. Besides, we have often observed that it may result in a heavy downpour.

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Thus the word ‘occur’ fits in more in this regard.

Another example is :

  1. A tsunami may occur anytime.
  2. A tsunami may happen at any time.

You can clearly demarcate it. The fact that we know Tsunami can approach anytime is clearly visible in sentence 1 rather than the second sentence which is quite uncertain about what it is exactly.


  • A train accident occurred the day before yesterday at Mumbai.
  • A train accident happened the day before yesterday at Mumbai.

We absolutely know how an accident looks like, what an accident is and therefore using the term ‘occurred’ is more prominent.

In other words, ‘happen’ is used to mean something random, while ‘occur’ is more observable and identifiable. Hence the words are used specifically in informal or formal circumstances respectively.

This uniqueness of English vocabulary is what ensures a better execution of your content and strengthen your skills consequently. EngConvo has always given enough emphasis on this particular ground with respect to giving the best online spoken English training.

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