I seem to remember my parents, who came from Dublin, Ireland, saying a phrase like "what happened it" or "what happened him" rather than "happened to it" or "happened to him".
But it might have been someone else. I lived in NY until I was 4 and after that have lived in California.

Since this is a childhood memory it might have been just another kid who left out the word "to", but I think I've heard it from more than one person and it's an idiom or colloquialism. Has anyone else ever noticed this, and if so, what's the location you're most likely to hear it? Am I just crazy?

  • 3
    If you google "what happened him", restricted to the 19th century, two hits on the first page are from the Dublin University Magazine. I think chances are your memory is pretty good. Mar 1, 2015 at 19:40
  • I have a feeling this is a result of the "to" being lost in speech. A common phrase that I have heard in the same vein is "I seen that". Obviously, this is lacking "have" and is grammatically incorrect, but that doesn't stop people from saying it. Mar 3, 2015 at 20:26

2 Answers 2


I'm Irish and it is indeed likely that your memory is correct. It is very common here to say "what happened him" and leave out the "to". I'm not sure about anywhere else but certainly across different Irish cities it would be more common to say this rather than "what happened to him".


From St Louis where we seem to use a unique adaptation of English. I have heard "happened to" and "happened" used by various individuals of various ethnic heritages, though all having primarily lived in St Louis. I posit this may be a conscious or subconscious distinction between phenomenologically describing an experience versus describing the experience in question from the perspective of attributing causation of the observer's reaction to the phenomena. To illustrate, how does positing "You hurt my feelings." versus "Your behavior affected me this way and I feel hurt by this." carry different meaning?

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