I want to know the difference in meaning between the two sentences:

How did you hear about it?


How did you happen to hear about it?

  • Hi, sage, as with most things, this depends on tone of voice and context meaning that the two could be the same. At their most basic difference, "happen to" is just a phrase people may use out of habit, colloquially, etc. and there is no difference (e.g., like using too much like). Mar 22, 2017 at 11:54
  • 1
    James Polamz King's answer is a good explanation for the exact sentences as written. The "how" lends a particular meaning. Without the "how", the answer would be slightly different. "Did you hear about it" is a simple question that doesn't get into the nature of the process by which it occurred. Adding "happen to" inserts a consideration that it might have occurred randomly or by accident. That would typically be done to ensure that the question isn't interpreted in an accusatory way, eliminating an implication that the person might have made it their business to hear about it.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 24, 2017 at 4:43

1 Answer 1

  1. How did you hear about it?

  2. How did you happen to hear about it?

The first one is used when the questioner is just curious about something. He isn't really surprised, he knows there are many possibilities of you hearing.

For example, if there is a flying rumour in school, the questioner might ask, How did you hear about it?

However, the second question is usually used to express intense curiosity. The questioner uses this when he doesn't expect you to know about something. Maybe he thought it's a secret, and here you are with a living knowledge of the secrecy. He would ask, How did you happen to hear about it?

In summary, the basic difference between these two questions is the level of curiosity.

  • You are most welcome. Let me know if you need more clarification. Mar 22, 2017 at 9:37

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