Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11

Thread: happen to be

  1. #1
    janausrissen is offline Newbie
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Germany
      • Current Location:
      • Germany
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    6
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default happen to be

    Hi all,

    I am delighted have been founding this forum. Hopefully anyone could help me with this issue. I am wondering when to use "...happen to be..."
    E.g In "Harry Potter and the prisoner of A." one can read:
    "<...> And Harry was happened to be a wizard."
    Why does Mrs Rowling use this expression here instead of just writing
    "<...> And Harry was a wizard."

    Does anyone know?

    thanks a bunch
    Jan

  2. #2
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    17,083
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    Hi Jan,
    Are you sure it said "And Harry was happened to be..." I think that may be an error.

    In any case, we say "He happened to be" to show what a happy coincidence it is that something that is needed is already there.

    A: I need a pen.
    B: I happen to have a pen right here. You are more than welcome to use it.

    A: Oh no! I need to get to the airport and my car has a flat tire.
    B: Oh, I happen to have a friend with a flight this afternoon. Let me call him and see if he can give you a ride.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. #3
    janausrissen is offline Newbie
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Germany
      • Current Location:
      • Germany
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    6
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    Hi Barb,

    brilliant! Thanks for clarifying this. Of course you are right, its an error.
    (As well as "...I am delighted founding this forum... )

    Its "<...> And Harry happened to be a wizard."
    Thank you very much for your kind help.

    Jan

  4. #4
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    17,083
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    I'm happy you happened to have found us in time for your question!
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. #5
    janausrissen is offline Newbie
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Germany
      • Current Location:
      • Germany
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    6
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    :) Unfortunately I wasnt happen to find you sooner.

    Jan
    Last edited by janausrissen; 21-Jan-2011 at 19:40.

  6. #6
    The Dude is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    202
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    Watch out for confusion when you come across the wrong application of this expression, used so often by native English speakers that you might think it to be correct:

    "I like that painting very much. What do you think of it?"
    "I happen to think it's awful"

    In this case, "I think it's awful" would be quite sufficient. Inserting 'happen to' is what I would call pompous verbosity. The speaker thinks it sounds more important when in fact it is a useless addition.

    Use this expression only as Barb_D has instructed!
    Last edited by The Dude; 20-Feb-2011 at 23:05.

  7. #7
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    But note that it doesn't mean that "I happen to think" is always wrong:

    "Everybody knows Tom is not worthy of other people's attention."
    "Actually, I happen to think he is more worthy of my attention than you are."

    "Happen" is used to contrast "everybody".

  8. #8
    The Dude is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    202
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    The Prince of Wales, during an interview some years ago, came out with 'I happen to believe...' and was quite rightly, if politely, ridiculed for it. The poor chap was only showing his disagreement with an earlier opinion, but it was nonetheless understood, although perhaps only by native English speakers, to be a pompous verbosity with no useful purpose. I can't think of any occasion when 'happen to' is reasonable other than that explained by Barb_D.

    I agree that in your example, as in mine, this expression is being used to make a contrast with a previous statement. However that does not make it right. It is still fatuous and still makes an Englishman wince. Better to keep it in its rightful place.

    Then again, perhaps I'm just a grumpy old man...

  9. #9
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    Thanks for this, The Dude. I would never have thought there's anything wrong with the usage similar to my example. I'm not sure if I understand one thing though. You say:

    agree that in your example, as in mine, this expression is being used to make a contrast with a previous statement.
    When I read your example, I thought, "It's obviously wrong, because there's no reason to use 'happen' here." I didn't see any contrast there--not a trace of justification for using the word "happen". You say there is some kind of contrast there. What things are contrasted?

    In my example, I wanted "happen" to be slightly ironic. (That's how I always understood this usage.)

    The literal meaning:
    Most people surely think the way you do, so you were almost right in saying that "everybody thinks so". It's just a coincidence that a person like me, who thinks otherwise, is (happens to be) your interlocutor. This is a very unlikely event.

    The intended meaning: Of course it's not a coincidence. You're just plain wrong, you bastard.

    If the second person just said, "Actually, I think...", this irony would be lost.

    Do you agree that this is present in my example and isn't is yours? Or is the difference just my imagination?
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 20-Feb-2011 at 22:51.

  10. #10
    The Dude is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    202
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: happen to be

    Well, if in your example 'happen' is a contrast to 'Everybody', then in mine it's a contrast to 'I' (of the first statement). The actual contrast is that one likes the picture but the other definitely does not. Just as 'Everybody' knows this, but 'I' strongly disagree.

    But this is not really my point. What I want to make clear is that to the ear of an educated English person, this expression sounds fatuous. Bear in mind that we are discussing everyday oral English here, rather than strict grammatical rules. Grammatically, 'I happen to think' may be correct, but you will be mocked if you use it, albeit behind your back.

    I see your wish to be ironic, but if I were your listener I would come back at you with 'Oh, you happen to think so, do you?' spoken with a very affected accent and maybe swivelling around on my toes, flapping my right hand! Thereby dishing the irony right back at you.

    It's tricky discussing spoken English in writing because one can't show the oral inflections that make such a difference. In both our examples, and indeed in any other such use of this expression, a strong emphasis on 'I' would suffice. The speaker in your example could also emphasize 'he' and 'you' to achieve the greatest effect and leave the listener lying in the gutter.

    Apologies are in order - to my horror I noticed I'd written 'What do you think it?' in my first response. Now corrected and my wrist slapped.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Did something like this ever happen to you
    By twilit1988 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 27-Mar-2009, 20:50
  2. happen
    By jiang in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 26-Nov-2007, 08:46
  3. Could It Happen to You?
    By Unregistered in forum Editing & Writing Topics
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 01-Oct-2007, 02:42
  4. So not happen
    By belly_ttt in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 29-Sep-2007, 03:08

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •