An event is an external signal that something has happened. They are sent to a state machine, and allow the state machine to react. It is the primary driver of the state machine.

An event is something of significance that happens in your domain that you have decided you want to influence behaviour. What actually constitutes an event depends on you. If you have a text field, you might have very specific events such as “user typed a key” or “user pasted some text” or simply use the “onchange” event (like in the browser).

There’s nothing to stop you from making more high level events, such as it “becomes empty” or “becomes non-empty”, or even “becomes valid” or “becomes invalid”. Making higher level events might cause the statechart to become simpler since it doesn’t necessarily have to deal with the nitty gritty of checking everything everywhere. Experience will guide you.

When an event happens

When an something important happens “in the real world”, it becomes an event in statechart parlance when the statechart is told about what just happened. Often this is reduced to a simple string representation, corresponding to the events defined in the various states of the statechart.

When the statechart receives the event, the active states are checked to see if they “handle” the event, in the sense that “any arrows (transitions) point from those states to other states” with a corresponding label. If there is such a transition, that transition also happens and the statechart is “instantly” in the that new state, and the event processing is completed.


Since an event is bound to the transition it sets off, the name of the event is written as the caption of the transition arrow itself:

A depiction of the _my_event_ event

The transition itself (the arrow) usually sits between two separate states, pointing from the state in which the event is expected, and pointing to the state to which the transition will happen.

A depiction of the _my_event_ event transitioning from somestate to othersate

Here we understand that when the statechart is in the somestate state, and the event my_event happens, then it transitions to the otherstate state.


In XState, an event is specified as a key of the on property in any state. The event name is the key, and the target of the transition that the event would trigger is the value of the event.

"somestate": { 
  "on": {
    "my_event": "otherstate"

Actually passing an event in XState is done by way of the transition function, which returns the state of the machine after the transition:

nextState = machine.transition(oldState, "my_event")

In a running (interpreted) machine, events are sent:

const myMachineService = interpret(myMachine);


See xstate.js.org/docs/guides/interpretation for more information.


The event is named as the event attribute of the <transition> element:

<state id="somestate">
  <transition event="my_event" target="otherstate" />