Italian word of the day: ‘Occorrere’

Italian word of the day: 'Occorrere'
Photo: DepositPhotos
This is a need-to-know kind of word.

If occorrere isn't quite in the false friend zone, it's certainly approaching it. This Italian verb looks a lot like 'to occur', but you'll rarely hear it used that way.

Its far more common meaning is 'to need' or 'to require'.

Se ti occorre qualcosa, dimmelo.
If you need anything, let me know.

A Roberta occorre più tempo per decidere.
Roberta needs more time to decide.

Ho quello che mi occorre.
I have everything I need.

CLICK HERE to hear 'occorre' pronounced: warning, it involves some tricky rolling of Rs.

Occorrere is an intransitive verb: it doesn't have a direct object. In other words, what you're really saying when you use it isn't that you need something, it's that something is necessary to you.

That's why the examples above contain either an indirect object pronoun (mi, ti – 'to me', 'to you') or the preposition a followed by the person you're specifying (a Roberta – 'to Roberta').

If you've already learned the common verb piacere ('to like', or more accurately 'to be pleasing to'), you'll already be familiar with this way of constructing your phrase. And with the fact that these verbs don't agree with the person you're talking about, but with the thing(s) – that's why you might see them in the plural even when there's only one person involved.

Mi occorrono due mila euro.
I need two thousand euros.

But you can also use occorrere without indicating any person at all. It's a very useful impersonal verb for when you want to make a general statement that's true for everyone: 'it is needed' or 'all of us need'.

Occorre la fotocopia della carta d'identità.
A photocopy of your ID card is required.

Occorrono aiuti urgenti.
Urgent help is needed.

Occorre fare presto.
We (all) have to hurry.

You'll see it used this way especially when it comes to talking about time and how long you need to do something or get somewhere.

Quanto tempo occorre per visitare tutto il parco?
How long does it take to visit the whole park?

Occorre un'ora per arrivarci.
It takes an hour to get there.

All very different from 'occurring', right – so why isn't occorrere categorically a false friend? Well, technically you can use it mean 'to occur' or 'to happen', but it's usually limited to pretty formal or literary written Italian.

È un termine che occorre spesso nel testo.
It is a word that occurs frequently in the text.

Speriamo che non gli occorra qualche incidente.
Let us hope that nothing happens to him.

Do you have an Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.

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