Ocurrir vs Ocurrirse

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the two Spanish verbs ‘ocurrir’ and ‘ocurrirse’?

Ocurrir = to happen

Me ocurrió.   =   It happened to me.

Ocurrirse = to come to mind, to come up with,  to occur to someone

Se me ocurrió.   =   It occurred to me. 

The regular verb ‘ocurrir’ isn’t too hard to work with but perhaps you have a bit more trouble with the pronominal verb ‘ocurrirse’.

Let’s look at phrases  like ‘se me ocurrió una idea’ (I had/came up with an idea.) or ‘no se me ocurre nada que decirle.’ (I can’t think of anything to say to her/him/you).

The se in the sentences above is necessary because the verb ocurrirse is pronominal, that is, it must be used with a reflexive pronoun.

The ‘se’ doesn’t have a translation, it’s just part of the verb.


When you add an ‘indirect object pronoun’ into the mix, it can’t replace the pronoun ‘se’, instead you need to use both.

The ‘me’ in those sentences is the indirect object pronoun to show who is affected.

Se me ocurrió algo.   Something occurred to me.

Keep in mind that the verb will match the subject not the indirect pronoun ‘me’.

Eg. In the sentence “se me ocurre una idea”, “una idea” is the subject of the sentence so the verb appears in the singular. But if you had two ideas, the verb would change to the plural “se me ocurren dos ideas”.

Click here if you’d like some ‘light’ 😉 (Spanish) reading on verbs that are ‘doblemente pronominales’.