Okay, so recently I ended up saying this:

Well, that is unfortunate... sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't.

Okay. You know, just saying "Sometimes it happens" already tells you that something happens sometimes and other times it doesn't. But, sometimes, I need to make very clear that this "something" doesn't happen always. That's why I say

sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't

But is there a way to shorten this phrase? To make it simpler, but still making very clear the fact that this "something" may not happen? Repeating "sometimes" is not very much of my liking...

3 Answers 3


This is an example of a rhetorical device called anaphora.

It's the very repetition of the word 'sometimes' that is emphasizing your point.

Unfortunately, rhetoric can sometimes be the enemy of conciseness; what you lose in conciseness, you gain (one hopes) in effectiveness.

  • Basically agree, just with the addition that a possible paraphrase in some cases could be "it may or may not happen". But you end up repeating a verb in any case. Feb 23, 2011 at 1:16
  • @Neil: Without repeating a verb: "It may happen or not"? "It happens sometimes (though not always)"? Rhetorically poor choices, but they mean the same, I think. Feb 23, 2011 at 6:03

To make it absolutely clear, you can use

It happens sometimes but not always.


You could reduce it by negating "always":

It doesn't always happen.

This implies that it happens sometimes, but it emphasises that there are times when it does not happen. The sentence accent will fall on always.

Or you could use "only":

This only happens sometimes.

This emphasises that the number of times it happens is limited. The primary sentence accent falls on some-, the secondary accent on only.

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