Usage and Grammar

Q. How might I best explain to my students the difference—if any—between recur and reoccur? They seem to be unaware of the former.

A. Depending on the age and skills of your students, one way would be to have them look up recur, occur, and reoccur in a good dictionary. Get them to look at the Latin root (currere) and prefixes (re, ob). Look at all the definitions.

Sometimes a difference in word meanings can be intuited from examples. To encourage this type of understanding, challenge the students to write a sentence using recur or reoccur that does not work if the other word is used instead. In this way they might figure out that the two words don’t share every meaning.