5 Errors to Avoid with the Verb ‘SUCCEDERE’ in Italian

This article will deal with the 5 most frequent mistakes to avoid when using a very common Italian verb: SUCCEDERE.

The 5 most common Mistakes with the Verb SUCCEDERE

Are you familiar with the verb SUCCEDERE? It means “to happen, to take place, to occur”.

Although it’s definitely one of the first Italian verbs you learn, it never ceases to cause confusion, headaches and a few mistakes!

So, in this article we’ll see the 5 most common mistakes foreigners make with the verb SUCCEDERE, and clear up all doubts surrounding them so that you don’t make them again!

Are you ready?

1 – SUCCESSO or SUCCEDUTO?

Many foreigners use the past participle of the verb “succedere” incorrectly.

Starting from the infinitive, there’s a tendency to think that the past participle is “succeduto”, but this is actually not the case.

The verb succedere is irregular in the past participle: “successo”.

Here are some examples:

Non mi avevi detto di aver cambiato casa… Quando è successo?

Perché mi hai chiamato la notte scorsa? Cos’era successo di tanto grave?

Be careful though… SUCCEDUTO is not entirely wrong!!!

And that brings us to the next mistake…

2 – The other meaning of “SUCCEDERE”

Surely SUCCEDUTO can never be used when succedere means “to happen”, however…

“Succedere” also has another meaning: “to take over”, “to take the place left vacant by others in an office or title…”. This meaning of “succedere” is very often found in history books, when talking about the lines of succession to the throne of kingdoms.

Many foreigners aren’t aware of this difference and misunderstand certain phrases.

So, “succeduto” is used as the past participle of succedere when it has this meaning.

For example:

Dopo la morte del re, gli è succeduto sul trono il figlio maggiore.

Ad Augusto, primo imperatore romano, successe Tiberio.

Il padre è andato in pensione, e nella direzione dell’azienda sono succeduti i due figli.

3 – HA SUCCESSO vs È SUCCESSO

Although both of these forms are grammatically correct, they mean two very different things.

Many foreigners use “ha successo” as the present perfect of the verb “succedere”, but it’s not correct!

Let’s see why…

  1. È successo” is the correct form of the present perfect of succedere: as a matter of fact, this verb requires the verb essere as auxiliary. “È successo”, therefore, simply indicates that something happened in the past.

For example:

È successo un casino! Abbiamo scambiato i documenti di due clienti e ora sono arrabbiatissimi!

2. In “ha successo”, on the other hand, “successo” isn’t the past participle of the verb succedere, but is actually a noun. As a noun, successo indicates the successful accomplishment of something, a favourable outcome, a happy result.

Luigi è estremamente capace, perciò ha molto successo nel suo lavoro.

Quella band ha avuto successo in tutto il mondo sin da subito.

4 – SUCCEDERE vs CAPITARE

So many of you always ask us: what’s the difference between succedere and capitare? Is there any difference at all? Well…

Succedere and capitare are generally synonymous, as they both indicate the occurrence of an event, but they’re slightly different.

SUCCEDERE, as we saw earlier, indicates the generic occurrence of an event, it’s completely neutral, it doesn’t suggest anything about how the event happened.

It’s only conjugated in the 3rd person singular or plural.

For example:

Durante la riunione è successo un casino: Lucia e Giorgia hanno litigato davanti a tutti e sono state allontanate dall’edificio!

Nella vita, se pensi positivo, ti succederanno solo cose belle!

Aveva inserito la spina nella presa elettrica ma non succedeva niente: perciò ha pensato che il frullatore fosse rotto.

CAPITARE, on the other hand, puts more emphasis on the fact that the event happened by chance, accidentally or suddenly, without having wanted it to happen or having done anything to make it happen.

This verb can also be conjugated in all persons, as opposed to “succedere” and its other synonyms, which can only be conjugated in the 3rd person singular and plural.

For example:

Non preoccuparti se non ricordavi bene le parole della canzone: sono cose che capitano!

Ti capita mai di svegliarti nel bel mezzo della notte pensando che sia tardissimo nella mattina?

Camminando senza meta, sono capitata in una foresta e ho avuto paura perché pensavo di essermi persa e di non riuscire a tornare a casa.

5 – È STATO SUCCESSO: correct or not?

Many foreigners use “è stato successo” as the past perfect of “succedere”, but it’s clearly a mistake!

The present perfect of “succedere” is “è successo”. Just as the imperfect is “succedeva” and the past perfect is “era successo”.

So, does the form “è stato successo” exist in Italian?

It doesn’t, and is purely an error.

The verbal form “è stato successo” sounds like the passive form of a verb, but succedere is an intransitive verb, meaning that it can’t hold a direct object: the event that occurred is the subject of the sentence.

Consequently, “è stato successo” is wrong because in Italian you can’t use the passive form of intransitive verbs.

Now that you know how to use the verb “succedere” without mistake, learn about the top 5 mistakes to avoid when using modal verbs!

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