The use of 'ocupar' as a verb of necessity in Mexican Spanish


  • Erick Garcia Chavez Universität zu Köln



semantic reanalysis; grammaticalization; modality; dialectology


In Mexican Spanish, ocupar (‘to occupy’) is often employed as a verb of need and necessity, with a similar use and denotation to those of necesitar (‘to need’). Despite it being widespread, very little has been written about this phenomenon. In this article, I provide a description of this novel meaning. This description is supported by a Twitter-based study on the distribution of the meanings of ocupar around three Mexican cities. The quantitative analysis of the data confirms the extensive use of ocupar as necesitar, although to varying extents; concretely, it was found to be most frequent in Monterrey. In qualitative terms, I demonstrate that ocupar as necesitar is more often used to express need (i.e., with a nominal complement) than modal necessity (i.e., as a semiauxiliary with a sentential complement). Lastly, I propose that the emergence of this meaning represents a case of ongoing grammaticalization, whose origin can be traced back to older meanings via semantic reanalysis


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How to Cite

Garcia Chavez, E. (2022). The use of ’ocupar’ as a verb of necessity in Mexican Spanish. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 11(3), 247–263.