accident: ✓ accident ✗ incident

By | April 9, 2017
My life is a lovely story, happy and full of incident.
La mia vita è una storia bellissima, felice e ricca di avvenimenti.
- Hans Christian Andersen
✓ James had a skiing accident last weekend. I’m going to visit him in hospital tomorrow.
✗ James had a skiing *incident* last weekend ...
James ha fatto un incidente sciando lo scorso weekend. Vado a trovarlo all’ospedale domani.
An accident is unintentional and usually involves physical damage to things or injury to people. It can be a minor accident (for example when you break a glass or cut your finger in the kitchen) or more serious (for example skiing and breaking your leg). Some more examples:
✓ I’m really sorry but your camera has had a little accident. (= the camera is probably broken or at least damaged!)
Mi dispiace tanto ma la tua macchina fotografica ha avuto un piccolo incidente.
✓ There have been several accidents as a result of the snow this morning.
Ci sono stati diversi incidenti a causa della neve stamattina.
An incident is simply a notable event, one which doesn’t “happen every day". Some examples:
✓ There was an unpleasant incident involving the singer’s bodyguard and one of the paparazzi.(= perhaps an argument, or the bodyguard taking the photographer’s camera and breaking it, not accidentally!)
C’è stato un episodio spiacevole che ha coinvolto la guardia del corpo della cantante e uno dei paparazzi.
✓ The demonstration passed off without incident. (= peacefully; nothing newsworthy happened, the protestors didn’t fight with the police, no damage was done to property, etc.)
La manifestazione si è svolta/conclusa senza incidente.
✓ There were several amusing incidents at John’s wedding, generally alcohol-related! (= perhaps they lost the ring, or the bride had some "trouble" with her wedding dress!)
Ci sono stati diversi episodi divertenti al matrimonio di John, generalmente collegati all’alcol.

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