Based on what I read on Oxford Dictionary, it seems that repeat is used to state that the subject of the verb is repeating the object, while recur is used when we want to say that the subject happens more than once.

For example:

  1. He asked her to repeat* her question because he couldn’t hear it clearly.
  2. This event has recurred several times in recent days.

In the second example, can I say, "This event has repeated several times in recent days"?

And if it’s applicable, could you please explain whether or not both words in the sentence show difference in meaning?

  • 1
    Repeat can be causative or inchoative, but recur can't be causative. Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


Just because you need an intransitive use doesn't mean you need to use recur. Events can repeat, or they can be repeated because you can repeat them. So repeat can be transitive or intransitive, but recur can only be intransitive.

But there's something more important to consider. Repeat and recur are not of the same register. Repeat is an order of magnitude more frequent in actual use according to the OED. It has many more common uses than recur does.

Recur is fancier and tends to be found in more formal or technical circumstances like mathematics, or by more careful writers. Recur may be replaced by reoccur (in older spellings sometimes re-occur, reöccur) by speakers and writers who are less comfortable with recur.

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