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I'm interested in learning the difference between these three words difference відбуватися, трапитися, мало місце, is one or the other preferred for certain types of happenings? Are some more used in the perfective than others? Do some describe events happening more quickly/all at once, or more slowly?

Thanks in advance

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In general they differ in such way:

"Мало місце" is mostly used in bureaucratic or official texts like "Something bad happened, but we are continuously improving our service, and we will avoid such situations in the future" - "Подібні випадки мали місце в минулому, але ми працюємо над тим щоб уникати їх у майбутньому". I would say that it is rarely used in usual speech.

Трапитися is more about unexpected event, about something that happens only sometimes:

Вона була тільки тоді щаслива, як одпрошувалась в гості до батька, та й те траплялось дуже рідко. (She was only happy when she had a permission to visit her father, but this happened very rarely).

Відбуватися is more about something planned, either that happens on schedule ("вистави відбуваются щосереди"), or was expected to happen at some point of time (like "весілля відбудеться через два тижні") (1st case)

So, if we are talking about perfective aspect then "мало місце" may describe anything - from rude answer on reception desk to bad service during 10-day stay in hotel. Official speech prefers phrases that can be universally applied in all possible cases, so you can't have any hints just from usage of this expression.

Since "трапилось" is usually something unexpected than it is more likely to be short, but it can also mean that "someone had a chance (to visit a resort for 10 days)" - "комусь трапилась нагода зупинитися на курорті на 10 днів", but anyway "chance" is instant here.

"Відбулося" is mostly planned event, so it is likely to have some duration (like wedding, space launch, theatrical performance, some meeting, etc.).

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  • Hey thank you so much, this is a brilliant explanation.
    – user173361
    Oct 13, 2022 at 16:07
  • @user173361 Don't forget to accept the answer if it satisfies you ;)
    – Artemix
    Oct 14, 2022 at 19:05
  • Hey, this is an excellent answer, sorry I've been away for work and I had forgotten to accept it, many apologies and many thanks
    – user173361
    Oct 17, 2022 at 0:44
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They have English equivalents:
Відбуватися — to happen.
Трапитися — to be, not the same but very similar.
Мало місце — had taken place.

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