Recently I learnt a phrase "it just so happens that....". I would like to know if I could use "it just so happened that..." to refer to a past situation? For example,

It just so happened that I met him yesterday!

As I searched on the internet, I saw no -ed one. Thanks in advance! :)


3 Answers 3


It just so happens is a phrase used as an idiom and like an idiom it has a special meaning which most English speakers and learners understand.

I think it's the meaning of the idiom that is important here rather than whether to use happened or happens Even if the thing you're talking about happened in the past then this is irrelevant when considering which tense to use. This is because the phrase has a meaning that covers or includes the past because it acts as an idiom.

Having said all of this I agree that using happenedis probably an understood and acceptable substitute.

  • Thanks for your answer. So is it ok to say "it just so happens that I met him yesterday"?
    – Dennis
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 1:40
  • In my opinion yes.Even though happens doesn't refer to the past in your sentence the sentence contains an idiom that has a meaning that is relevant to the past and present and future if spoken in the right context.
    – user242899
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 4:05

The construction "just so happened" is fine.

See this link from Merriam-Webster. While just so isn't specifically given as an example with happened, it is grammatically and idiomatically correct.



a : to do or be something by chance — followed by to + verb

The children [just so] happened to be asleep when we called.

I [just so] happened to overhear their conversation.

b — used with it to describe something that occurs by chance

It ([just] so) happened that the children were asleep when we called.

It (just so) happen[ed] that I kn[ew] his brother.

  • We cannot say "Someone (just) so happens to do/be something." instead of "It (just) so happens that someone does/is something." !!! It's written here: forum.wordreference.com/threads/….
    – Loviii
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 10:11

"It just so happens(ned) is an idiomatic expression implying that the event happened in due course without outside influence. The word used to describe that situation is "serendipity" implying unexpected, unplanned or surprising.

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