I found my present flat completely by __.

  1. luck
  2. coincidence
  3. chance

What will be the most appropriate word in this sentence?


By chance is what you are looking for, as you found it unexpectedly. Also it sounds the most natural.


Actually, any of the words would work just about as well in your example: by chance and by coincidence emphasize the random nature of the occurrence and are interchangeable, while by luck adds an element of good fortune to it. The concept of luck mitigates the sense of randomness to some extent, as many people perceive luck to be a mystical, deterministic power that operates on behalf of someone.

So it all depends on what you mean.

  • 2
    By chance IS luck - by luck sounds wrong
    – mplungjan
    Mar 2 '11 at 13:55
  • 1
    I agree with mplungjan. "I found my ___ by luck" is non-idiomatic. I can't imagine a native speaker saying that under any circumstances. "I found my ___ by coincidence" is quasi-possible as an introductory clause, in the event that something else happened of significance. "By chance" means "by accident" in this context and is natural.
    – The Raven
    Mar 2 '11 at 16:36
  • @mplungjan, @The Raven: Well, in the sense that you can have good luck or bad luck, sure. But I believe I qualified the statement sufficiently. For some people, luck is deterministic, not random, and that's what they mean when they use the word. And if you can say you found something "by sheer good luck" you ought to be able to say you found it "by luck" — or so it seems to me.
    – Robusto
    Mar 2 '11 at 16:40
  • 1
    @The Raven I'm with @Robusto on this. I don't think by luck is non-idiomatic. A simple google search for "by luck" returns many results. In fact, the phrase would sound far more natural to me than by chance in several situations: "Did you win that game of darts by luck or by skill?"
    – ghoppe
    Mar 2 '11 at 23:52
  • @The Raven Of course, now that I posted that I realize you mean "I found my X by luck" is non-idiomatic, not just "by luck." Even then, I respectfully disagree. I would use "by chance" if I wasn't actively looking for/missing something, but If I were looking for something and somehow stumbled upon it in an unlikely location, I could imagine exclaiming "I found my missing X purely by luck!"
    – ghoppe
    Mar 2 '11 at 23:57

Chance is best. Happenstance is another way of saying coincidence.

  • Hello, Ron Royston. Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) defines happenstance as "a circumstance esp. that is due to chance," so you would strengthen your answer if you could point to a reference work that supports your view that happenstance is closer in meaning to "coincidence." It's an interesting idea in any case.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 12 '15 at 7:51

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