Recur vs. Reoccur: What’s the Difference?

English has many words that resemble each other in terms of spelling and meaning, yet retain subtle nuances that distinguish them from each other. Using such words precisely can add depth to your writing and lend you the appearance of competence.

Recurring and reoccurring are two words that are often mistaken for each other. They look the same, and indeed have very similar meanings, but they are not completely interchangeable.

What is the Difference Between Recur and Reoccur?

In this article, I will compare recur vs. reoccur. I will use each word in an example sentence to illustrate its meaning. Then, at the end, I will show you a useful trick to remember when you can’t decide whether to use recur or reoccur in your own writing.

When to Use Recur

recur versus reoccur What does recur mean? Recur is a verb and is defined as to happen repeatedly and at regular intervals. It can be conjugated into various tenses by adding -s, or doubling the r and adding -ed and -ing.

The full moon, the start of baseball season, and a meeting that happens the first Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. are all recurring events.

Here are some examples of recur in use:

  • I set the event in my online calendar to recur on a monthly basis.
  • Jessica’s Audible subscription is a recurring charge on her credit card statement.
  • Brad and Melissa’s recurring breakups tend to happen in April and December, during the times Angela is in town for spring break and Christmas.
  • Metal stents can complicate diagnosis and future treatment, including bypass surgery, when symptoms recur as they often do. –The Wall Street Journal

When to Use Reoccur

Definition of reoccur definition and definition of recur definitionWhat does reoccur mean? Reoccur is also a verb and is defined as to happen again. Anything that has happened once could be said to reoccur if the same thing happens again at any time.

The sentences below are examples:

  • The tragedy will reoccur unless we take measures to prevent it.
  • Death cannot reoccur unless the corpse first comes back to life.
  • Reoccurring physical trauma caused the joint to prematurely weaken.
  • “It was just a matter of building strength back up,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of shoulder program to strengthen my shoulder so it doesn’t reoccur.” –The Detroit News

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define reoccur and define recurHere is a helpful trick to remember reoccur vs. recur in your writing.

  • Something that reoccurs happens more than once.
  • Something that recurs happens repeatedly, and on a regular basis.

Heart attacks, shooting stars, and volcanic eruptions can reoccur. They happen more than once. Holidays, heartbeats, and the sunrise recur. They happen repeatedly and on a regular basis.

Since to occur means to happen, and the prefix re- means to happen again, reoccur means to happen a second time, but the word implies no regularity. You can remember to use reoccur for these situations by breaking the word down and looking at the meanings of its parts.

Summary

Is it recur or reoccur? Recur and reoccur can be difficult words to use correctly. They look similar, sound similar, and have similar meanings. But using them effectively can make the difference between sharp, clear writing and imprecise, mediocre writing.

  • Something that recurs happens repeatedly and regularly.
  • Anything that happens more than once, regardless of regularity, can be said to have reoccurred.

You can remember that reoccur only means to happen more than once by breaking the word down and looking at the meaning of its constituent parts.

If you still need help, or can’t remember the difference between these two words, you can refer back to this article for guidance on whether to use reoccur or recur in your writing.

[i]
[i]