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What is the difference between ocurrir and suceder? Both mean "to happen", but are they used in certain contexts?

  1. La fiesta ocurrió en la ciudad de Población.

  2. La fiesta sucedió en la ciudad de Población.

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    I would use La fiesta fue en la ciudad de Población.
    – El_Mochiq
    Feb 14 '14 at 23:04
  • And I'd prefer La fiesta tuvo lugar en la ciudad de Población, at least in written language. There are lots of ways to express the same in Spanish.
    – Gorpik
    Oct 7 '14 at 8:29
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The correct name of the verbs is ocurrir and suceder.

Spanish has at least three verbs that can mean "to happen," and all three of them — pasar, ocurrir and suceder — are fairly common. Although pasar is the most common and can be used in both formal and informal contexts, many times the three verbs are interchangeable.

Pasar: As indicated in the lesson on pasar, pasar has a variety of meanings, including "to pass" in various senses.

Ocurrir: Ocurrir is a cognate of the English "to occur" and has much the same meaning, although the synonym "to happen" is a more common translation.

Suceder: Suceder also is often used to mean "to happen." Note that while suceder is related to the English verb "to succeed," it never has the meaning of "to have success," although it can mean "succeed" in the sense of "to take the place of" as in "suceder al trono," "to succeed to the throne."

Read more: Information and examples.

As others suggested, I wouldn't use any of those in your example, as parties are commonly celebrated:

La fiesta se celebró en la ciudad de Alicante

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  • Other ones include acontecer and my personal favorite, acaecer. Oct 6 '14 at 21:21
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With that usage, when they mean to happen, they're pretty much synonyms. But they both have other meanings. For example, ocurrir, in its pronominal form, can also mean to come up with.

La idea se me ocurrió mientras me duchaba.

I came up with that idea while having a shower.

While suceder may also mean succeed.

Felipe III sucedió a Felipe II en el trono.

Felipe III succeeded Felipe II to the throne.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't use either of those in the example you're suggesting, because parties don't just happen, they're celebrated.

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Even you can use

"La fiesta fue en la ciudad de Población"

As explain on RAE

  1. intr. Suceder, acontecer, tener lugar. ¿Dónde fue la boda? El partido fue a las seis.

Fué

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Both sentences are wrong in Spanish. In Spanish nobody uses these verbs in that sentence.

The sentence it can be constructed as:

  • La fiesta fue en...
  • La fiesta tuvo lugar en...
  • La fiesta se celebró en...

and the only synonym of "ocurrir" and "suceder" used is

  • La fiesta aconteció en...

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