Not to be confused with capire (to understand), capitare means to happen or occur – but often with an element of chance or accident. You know, the way things just… happen.
I problemi capitano lo stesso mese ogni anno.
The problems occur in the same month every year.
La Festa della Repubblica quest’anno capita di sabato.
This year Republic Day falls on a Saturday.
Sono cose che capitano.
These things happen.
Often things happen to you, in which case you’ll need to add a personal pronoun.
Mi capitano cose strane.
Strange things are happening to me.
Potrebbe capitare anche a te.
It could happen to you too.
It’s also a way to say that you ended up somewhere or found yourself doing something slightly unexpected.
Siamo capitati in questa trattoria per caso.
We wound up in this restaurant by chance.
È capitata a Roma nel momento perfetto.
She happened to be in Rome at the perfect time.
Ma dove sono capitato?!
Where have I ended up?!
You can also use capitare impersonally to talk about whether or how often something occurs. We don’t have an exact equivalent in English: it’s a bit like saying “it so happens that…”, “it has been known to happen” or “there are times when…”.
Capita talvolta che ci incontriamo.
We sometimes bump into each other (literally, “it sometimes happens that we bump into each other”).
Non capita spesso che io sia d’accordo con lui.
It’s not often that I agree with him.
Ci è già capitato di sbagliare.
We’ve been wrong before.
Se ti capita di vederlo, digli che lo sto cercando.
If you happen to see him, tell him I’m looking for him.
Vi è mai capitato di vedere un fantasma?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
It’s worth getting a grip on this verb if only so that you can use one of Italian’s most delightfully odd expressions: capitare a fagiolo, which literally means “to happen at the bean”. Figuratively it means to have perfect timing, to come at just the right time or happen at the perfect moment.
La pausa è capitata a fagiolo.
The break came just in time.
Capiti proprio a fagiolo, stavamo giusto parlando di te!
You’ve got perfect timing, we were just talking about you!
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