Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

What can you say in moments of surprise or coincidence in English?

Listen in on today’s episode and learn native English phrases.

This vocabulary marks these exciting moments and is extremely useful in many situations!


Michelle just got a new microphone and is really excited about it.

A lot of listeners have commented about Michelle’s microphone and they took note.

The All Ears English team always values the comments of the listeners which is why today’s episode is inspired by a question from one of the listeners.

Today’s question

Hi, Lindsay!
I love your podcast so much! I’ve been listening to your podcast since 2021. It’s been really helpful to upgrade my English skills. Now I work at a global corporation. Thanks to you! By the way, can Michelle change her mic? Please? It doesn’t sound clear. Volume is unstable between you and Michelle. And I also want to learn how can I use “happens to”. For example: “Did you happen to hear the noise?” Thank you!

This is a good question.

Before we dive into the answer, you can check out a previous episode which is: AEE 1952: Since When? Time Phrases for Sharing Your Past in English

#1: Happen to

The phrase ‘happen to’ is used in a couple of different ways.

Lindsay and Michelle will be focusing on one special way in today’s episode.

The listener’s example was “Did you happen to hear the noise?”

This is slightly different from, “Did you hear the noise?”

The first sentence means you are asking if there is a chance the person you’re talking to heard the noise.

It shows the possibility they didn’t hear the noise.

The latter, on the other hand, is asking and confirming the other person heard the noise.

More examples of other ways to say this:

  • “Did you happen to call my mom, or have you not had a chance yet?”
  • “Did you happen to buy tomatoes?”

Why use ‘happen to?’

In both sentences, you are genuinely asking to see if these happened or not.

This is a low-pressure way to ask someone if something occurred or not.

Michelle asks Lindsay if she uses ‘happen to’ often.

Lindsay mentions this depends on who she is talking to.

She would be more direct if what she is asking is super important.

If not, she can use ‘happen to.’

Michelle shares she uses it a lot.

She often says this when someone forgets something.

This is in order to be indirect and polite.

This will also make the person she’s talking to more comfortable and not feel pressured.

Other ways to use ‘happen to’

Here is a bonus way you can use ‘happen to.’

You can use it in a question as well.

  • “I happen to know the director at the company you are interested in! Let me introduce you.”
  • “I happen to have a free slot at 12:00 pm. I usually never do. Are you free then?”

In these questions, you can see luck is involved.

Another phrase that can show luck is the phrase ‘it just so happens.’

Here are examples using this expression:

  • “It just so happens that I have one more piece of candy for you!”
  • “It just so happens that I’ll be by your office this morning. Want to get coffee?”

This is similar to saying something is surprising in a way.

When sharing a story where you were surprised you can use the phrase ‘just so happens.’

Coincidences can happen and can catch you off guard.

It’s good to be equipped with vocabulary to convey what you feel.


In today’s episode, Lindsay and Michelle have shared phrases that can help you share about luck.

These are also great for coincidences or when you are surprised and connect with other people.

Here is a quick roleplay to show you how to use these phrases in a conversation.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Michelle are colleagues at lunch.

Lindsay: Are you free tomorrow for lunch too?
Michelle: Hmmm. I don’t think so. Oh wait! It just so happens my meeting got canceled, so yes!
Lindsay: Amazing! I happen to have a friend in town who would like to join us.
Michelle: Oh that’s great! Hey, did you happen to get that file into Molly?
Lindsay: Yes!
Michelle: Thanks so much!


These are very useful expressions to talk about chance, possibility, and surprise.

You don’t want to be stuck and be at a loss for words when you are expressing yourself in English.

Keep building your vocabulary to expand the ways you can express yourself.

This will help you build stronger and deeper connections.

This can also improve your English skills and make you more fluent and confident when starting English conversations.

What other phrases can you use to express you are surprised?

Share it in the comments below.

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