happen to be

Discussion in 'English Only' started by benein, Nov 28, 2012.

  1. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Hi~ everyone. :)

    I met an expression. And I would like to know what exactly it means.
    Please help me.


    [line]
    ...........
    .......
    ....
    Mr. Monk: But, Sergeant, there is something wrong here.
    A sergeant: You're absolutely right, sir. And it's you.
    A lawyer: Ahem, excuse me, General, but I think you need to listen to him because he's brilliant and he happens to be noticing things that maybe some people aren't.



    [context]
    It is from a TV show named Monk. (It is a comedy)

    Mr. Monk is a private detective. He is not a cop.
    He is on his way home. He gets stuck in a traffic jam and finds that it is because of a car accident.

    He wants to take a look at it. So he walks out of his car and goes to the spot.
    When he makes his way to the spot, he meets a man. His job is a lawyer. (The lawyer is not a serious man. He is kind of rude.)

    The two men decide to go to the spot together.

    When they arrive at the place, Mr. Monk finds a few odd things. And the lawyer is surprised how good Mr. Monk is.
    At that time a cop comes along and asks them to get out of the spot. And Mr. Monk responds,




    [question]

    (A)
    ..... and he happens to be noticing things ........

    (B) ..... and he is noticing things ........


    I guess the meanings of the both sentences are same but the feelings are different.
    I would like to know what different feeling you feel when you read (A).


    I have three guesses.


    <1>
    I think (A) is more dramatic.
    The lawyer wants to have the police listen to what Mr. Monk says. So he mentions Mr. Monk's ability dramatically so that the police would listen to Mr. Monk carefully.



    <2>
    I think (A) is more polite.
    Well he doesn't sound polite in the movie when he says that line. But I just want to give it a shot.

    He is a lawyer so maybe he get used to what lawyers say in a court. And I guess lawyers use very polite expressions in a court. And maybe the expression 'happen to' is one of them. And it just comes out when he is defending Mr. Monk.



    <3>
    I think (A) is only what lawyers would say.
    He is a lawyer. So he just uses one of the expressions that he uses in a court.


    Thank you for reading my post.
     
  2. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    I think "happens to be" is a way of saying "make sure you are aware of this - it could be important!" It's a way of drawing someone's attention to what follows.
    e.g "Make note, he is actually a lawyer, so he knows what he's doing" "Be aware that he's taking a keen interest in what's happening which may have some bearing later on"
     
  3. SajadBishop Senior Member

    Farsi
    Hi to you! you expressed the context and also your ideas very vell!
    I think this phrase is not formal snd I've seen it several times in movies, but its meaning:
    "He happens to be noticing things", "happens to" here means "maybe" , "by acciddent" and ...
     
  4. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Benein, I don't think your <2> and <3> apply here. I'd say your <1> is pretty close: it ties in with Franco-filly's suggestion — and it could be simply that, an attention-grabbing phrase.

    If we look a bit more deeply, there are other possible 'feelings' I might get (depending on the tone used if it were spoken):

    - Used literally, the expression "happens to be" often suggests the idea of chance or coincidence: "I feel ill"... "You're in luck. I happen to be a doctor"; or "I saw Mary last week. She happened to be on the same bus as me". In this case, the lawyer could be implying that Monk didn't deliberately set out to investigate the accident, but now that he's here he happens (by chance) to be noticing things.

    - "Happens to" may also be used ironically: "Why do they pay him so much?" ... "Oh, he just happens to be the best goalkeeper in the world". Here there's no suggestion of chance, but the person replying is being sarcastic. It's an ironic use of the belittling term "just happens to be", the underlying thought being something like "Are you really so ignorant that you don't know who he is, and what he's worth?"

    Ws:)
     
  5. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you for replying Franco-filly! :D
    Your explanation "drawing someone's attention to what follows" is great! The moment I read this part I understood!

    I have another question.:)
    Do you use the expression "happen to" in this sense only when you are angry?
     
  6. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    No, it's not necessarily related to anger. See my examples in post #4.

    Ws:)
     
  7. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you for replying Wordsmyth! :D
    Your explanation really helped me think deeply.
    I wouldn't think if I didn't meet your reply!


    I have one question. If you don't mind, could help me? :)
    My question is..






    <QUESTION >



    [context]

    A: I feel ill.
    B: You are in luck. I happen to be a doctor.



    [question]

    I would like to know what B's intention is when he uses the expression "happen to".


    I have one guess.


    I think B's intention of using the expression "happen to" is to make A laugh.
    So I guess the conversation would go like this

    A: I feel ill.
    B: You are in luck. I happen to be a doctor.
    A: hahaha


    Am I right?
    Or B can just use the expression without the intention of making A laugh?


    Thank you for reading my long question.

    Have a good day! :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  8. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you for replying Wordsmyth! :D

    I didn't think it was an attention-grabbing phrase..
    I wouldn't have realized if you didn't tell me.

    I appreciate it!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  9. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you for replying SajaBishop. :)
     
  10. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I don't think so, benein. I used the 'doctor' example to show how "happen to be" can represent the idea of chance or coincidence. I was imagining a situation where someone feels ill, say, in the street, or at a party. A stranger says "You're in luck. I happen to be a doctor", where "happen to be" is expressing the stroke of luck, or the coincidence, that he was there just when he was needed.

    I suppose, in a different situation, it might be said to get a laugh. If someone went for a consultation with a doctor, and opened the conversation with "I feel ill", the doctor might make an attempt at humour, saying "You're in luck. I happen to be a doctor". In fact that falls into the second category that I mentioned in post #4: irony. In reality, there's no question of chance or coincidence, because if you deliberately went to see a doctor, you'd expect to find a doctor there!
    Actually it was Franco-filly who first mentioned it, in post #2. Credit where credit is due.:cool: I was just agreeing that it is indeed one possible usage.

    Ws:)
     
  11. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you very much Wordsmyth! :D:thumbsup:
    Your explanation is best!! :thumbsup:



    If you don't mind, could I ask you one more question?
    How would you like to rephrase the sentence "I happen to be a doctor."?


    The sentence "I happen to be a doctor" makes me think that the doctor suddenly shows up out of nowhere like a wizard. But we are not living in a fantasy world. :D

    After I read your threads I realized that it doesn't mean that.(When I knew this I was really surprised! Thank you again! :)) But I don't know why but I just keep thinking in that way...
    I read other threads in the forum.. And other people used the expression "by chance" like you did in your first thread.. but it didn't help me..


    So.. if you don't mind would you like to rephrase the sentence "I happen to be a doctor." without using the expression "by chance"?


    I'm really sorry to keep bothering you. :eek:

    Thank you for reading my post!
    Have a great day! :)
     
  12. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I think I see your problem, benein. The construction "I happen to be" is a little curious.

    Consider "I am a doctor": "I" is the subject of "am".
    Then, in "I am, by chance, a doctor", "I' is still the subject of "am".
    Then, "I happen to be a doctor". This has the same meaning (it's still referring to the subject, "I", being a doctor), but has changed grammatically. "I" appears to be the subject of "happen", but it doesn't mean that the doctor "occurred". You can't really separate the two verbs; you have to consider them as a set expression "happen to be".

    It might be easier to understand in the alternative form: "It happens that I am a doctor", or (to emphasise the 'coincidence' aspect) "It just so happens that I am a doctor". Here the subject of "happens" is the impersonal "it" (as in "It's raining", or "It's lucky you're here"), so there's no risk of of reading it as 'the doctor is happening'.

    I hope that helps.

    Ws:)
     
  13. Baltic Sea Senior Member

    Polish
    How about this: It so happens that I am a doctor by chance or As it happens, I am a doctor by chance.
     
  14. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Well, those are a couple of blatant examples of tautology! — but you have indeed added another possible form: "As it happens, ..." (without the "by chance" ;)).

    Ws:)
     
  15. Baltic Sea Senior Member

    Polish
    Thank you, Wordsmyth. Is there anything wrong with "It so happens that ...." structure?
     
  16. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Nothing wrong, BS. It's perfectly good. In terms of degree of emphasis, it falls in between my two examples in #12:

    - "It happens that ..." :tick:
    - "It so happens that ..." :tick:
    - "It just so happens that ..." :tick:

    Just to come back on the tautologies (... happens + by chance being a repetition), I've just realised that they could also be read to mean something else. "It so happens that I am a doctor by chance" could suggest that the speaker had intended to become, say, an engineer, but that some chance occurrence in his life led to his becoming a doctor.

    Ws:)
     
  17. Hello native friends,

    I have always thought that he happens to be was extra good to be used in a dismissive/ironical/patronising sense like in this:

    A (new workmate): What the f***! That man is staring at us since ages! What's the hell with him?

    B (elder colleague): Unfortunately, he happens to be YOUR boss...

    << Italian text deleted. This is the English Only forum >>

    I see that this has been said in previous posts, but I mean that I consider this the main use for such an exprssion.

    Is it my wrong impression?
    Thank you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 4, 2012
  18. Baltic Sea Senior Member

    Polish
    Thank you very much, Wordsmyth.
     
  19. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    It certainly is used in that way, but I would say it's used just as much in the other contexts discussed previously. So, main use?: I don't think so.

    In written text, the feeling behind it may not be obvious, unless it can be inferred from the context. In speech, the intention (humour, expressing coincidence or chance, simple emphasis, irony, sarcasm, anger, or being dismissive or patronising, etc) would be clear from the tone of voice.

    Ws:)
     
  20. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you Wordsmyth! :D:thumbsup:
    I can't express how much I appreciate it in words!
    After I read your threads, my understanding on this expression is improved dramatically!
    :thumbsup:


    I'm sorry to say this.. Could I ask you one more thing?

    If you don't mind would you like to rephrase the sentence "
    I happen to be a doctor" without using the word "happen"?

    How would you express the meaning of the sentence "
    I happen to be a doctor." without using the word "happen"?
    Would you like to give me your sentences?

    I know it will be really difficult but I have no one to ask.. Would you like to help me?
    (I looked it up all English dictionaries that I know. And they don't provide this kind of information..)

    Thank you again Wordsmyth!

    Thank you for reading my post.
    Have a great day!
    :)
     
  21. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    One way would be "Luckily/fortunately for you, I am (actually) a doctor!"
     
  22. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Well, there is of course "by chance" (my #12), but we've been there.

    Franco-filly's suggestion opens up another possibility, and a variant of that could be "As luck would have it, I'm a doctor".

    Ws:)
     
  23. Thank you very much WS, you have broadened my views!:)
     
  24. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you Franco-filly! :D

    Your two threads helped me a lot! :thumbsup:
    Your first thread gave me reassurance. I wasn't sure if I got the meaning correctly.
    Your second thread helped me have nuance of this expression.

    With your help, I have finally understood this expression!

    Have a good day! :)
     
  25. benein Senior Member

    Korean
    Thank you very much Ws! :D
    I can't express in words how much your explanation and examples help me.

    Now that I look back, you explained everything in your first thread. :thumbsup:
    I guess I was just resisting what you explained because it was not familiar to me.(Silly me.. :eek:) And you solved this problem in your second thread. And you helped me have more nuance of this expression by rephrasing the sentence in your third thread. Thank you again Ws! :D:thumbsup:

    You could have just ignored me but you didn't. Thank you for your patience!


    Have a good day! :)
     

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