Verbs of becoming in Spanish

What is a verb of becoming?

Like English, Spanish has several verbs of becoming, or verbs of transformation (verbos de cambio) that express a transformation from one state or quality to another. In Spanish, the verbs of becoming are: convertirse, hacerse, llegar a ser, ponerse, quedarse and volverse. The transformations that these verbs express can be: temporary or permanent, sudden or gradual, deliberate or involuntary, as well as positive or negative. Some focus on the result of the change and others on the process. In English, these verbs are typically translated with verbs like become, get, end up, go and turn into depending on the context.

Example

Marisa quiere llegar a ser deportista de élite. En las últimas semanas, se ha puesto en forma con un entrenador personal. Se ha vuelto muy exigente. Está convencida de que entrenando diariamente sus sueños se convertirán en realidad.

Advertisement

Verbs that express a change of state

The verbs ponerse and quedarse express a change of state. We use them to talk about a situation that changes when certain elements are added or removed. These verbs are similar in meaning to the verb estar.

ponerse

→ emphasises the temporary nature of the change

get, become, be

The verb ponerse expresses a sudden change from one state to another. When used with people, it expresses a change in appearance, colour, emotion, health or circumstances. It can also be followed by an adjective.

Examples:
Me he puesto roja de la vergüenza.I blushed out of embarrassment.
Se han puesto muy tristes con la noticia.They became very sad when they heard the news.

Ponerse can also be followed by a preposition + noun.

Examples:
Este verano me he puesto en forma en el gimnasio.This summer I got fit at the gym.
Las chaquetas vaqueras se han puesto de moda otra vez.Denim jackets are back in fashion again.

When ponerse is followed by the preposition a + infinitive, it can also be translated into English at start to. Ponerse a is a type of verbal periphrasis.

Example:
Ayer, mientras paseábamos, se puso a llover de repente.Yesterday, while we were walking, it suddenly started to rain.

Check out Lingolia’s list of Spanish verbs of becoming with examples to learn new expressions.

quedarse

→ emphasises the result of the change

become, end up, get, go, be

The verb quedarse signals that a person, thing or situation has changed from one state to another and stayed like that. This change can be temporary or permanent but the focus is on the end result, the idea of ending up in this new state or situation. Quedarse can be followed by an adjective, or by a preposition + noun.

Examples:
Mi padre se quedó calvo a los veinticinco años.My father went bald at 25.
Mi prima mayor se ha quedado embarazada de mellizos.My older cousin got pregnant with twins.
Con tanto estrés te has quedado en los huesos.With all this stress you’ve become skin and bones.

Check out Lingolia’s list of verbs of becoming with examples to learn new expressions.

Similarities with the verb estar

The verbs ponerse and quedarse are similar in meaning to the verb estar, because they all indicate a state. The difference is that while estar only expresses a state, ponerse and quedarse both express the change that has led to the state.

Sentences with ponerse and quedarse can be rewritten with estar to express the consequences of the change.

Examples:
Te has puesto muy triste. → Estás muy triste.You’ve become sad. → You are sad.
Me he quedado embarazada. → Estoy embarazada.I got pregnant. → I am pregnant.
Se ha puesto a nevar. → Está nevando.It has started to snow. → It’s snowing.

Verbs that express a change in quality

The verbs volverse, hacerse, convertirse and llegar a ser express a change in quality; that is, a change in the innate or acquired characteristics of something or someone. These verbs are very similar in meaning to the verb ser.

hacerse

→ emphasises willingness or participation in a gradual change

become, get

Hacerse indicates a gradual change. It can be followed by adjectives or nouns. Hacerse is used to refer to changes in profession, religion and ideology and implies a voluntary change in which the subject actively participates.

Examples:
Como su padre y su madre, Jacinto también se ha hecho profesor.Just like his father and mother, Jacinto also became a teacher.
El vecino de abajo ha dejado el catolicismo y se ha hecho judío.The downstairs neighbour has left Catholicism and has become Jewish.
Mi hermana se ha hecho rica con su nueva patente.My sister has become rich with her new patent.

It can also be followed by a preposition + noun in set phrases or to express natural changes.

Examples:
El inventor del automóvil se hizo de oro.The inventor of the car hit the jackpot.
hacerse de oro = hit the jackpot
En verano, se hace de día a las seis de la mañana.In summer, it gets light at 6 in the morning.
En invierno, se hace de noche a la seis.In winter, it gets dark at 6.

Check out Lingolia’s list of verbs of becoming with examples to learn new expressions.

volverse

→ emphasises the passive nature of the change

become, get, go

The verb volverse indicates a change in the character or condition of a person that is the result of circumstances beyond their control. It can be followed by an adjective or by a subject with the indefinite article.

Examples:
Mi mejor amiga se ha vuelto bastante antipática.My best friend has become quite mean.
La preocupación por la contaminación se ha vuelto muy importante.The concern about pollution has become very important.
Con la edad, mi hermana se ha vuelto una persona muy desconfiada.With age, my sister has become very suspicious.

Check out Lingolia’s list of verbs of becoming with examples to learn new expressions.

convertirse

→ emphasises the radical nature of the change

become, turn into

The verb convertirse indicates a quick and radical change. The nature of the change is usually drastic or even magical. It is synonymous with the verb transformarse when referring to scientific materials. It is followed by the preposition en and a noun.

Examples:
Entrenando diariamente sus sueños se convertirán en realidad.By training every day you can turn your dreams into a reality.
Después de algunos días en un capullo, el gusano se convierte en mariposa.After a few days in a cocoon, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
A 100ºC el agua se convierte en vapor.At 100ºc water becomes steam.

Spanish also has the expression convertirse a. This is always used to talk about a religious or ideological conversion.

Example:
Tras su viaje a Laos, Marina se ha convertido al budismo.Following her trip to Laos, Marina converted to Buddhism.

Check out Lingolia’s list of verbs of becoming with examples to learn new expressions.

llegar a ser

→ emphasises the result of a long process

eventually become, manage to become

The verbal periphrasis llegar a ser indicates a gradual and positive change; that is, it expresses a transformation for the better and focuses on this result.

It can be followed by adjectives or nouns.

Ejemplo:
Marisa quiere llegar a ser deportista de élite.Marisa wants to eventually become an elite athlete.
Marisa quiere llegar a ser rica.Maria wants to eventually become rich.

Check out Lingolia’s list of verbs of becoming with examples to learn new expressions.

Similarities with the verb ser

The verbs hacerse, volverse, convertirse and llegar a ser are similar in meaning to the verb ser because they all indicate a quality or characteristic of something or someone. The difference is that in contrast to ser, these verbs of becoming indicate a change as well as a quality.

Sentences with these verbs can be rewritten with ser to express the end consequence of the change.

Examples:
Mi hermana se ha hecho budista. → Mi hermana es budista.My sister has become a Buddhist. → My sister is a Buddhist.
Nos hemos vuelto vegetarianos. → Somos vegetarianos.We have gone vegetarian. → We are vegetarians.
La larga sequía de este año se ha convertido en un problema. → La larga sequía de este año es un problema.This year’s long drought has become a problem. → This year’s long drought has become a problem.
Mi hermana llegará a ser presidenta. → Mi hermana será presidenta.My sister will become president. → My sister will be president.

Expressions with the verbs of becoming

Our list of verbs of becoming summarises the most common Spanish expressions that use these verbs along with clear and easy examples to help you use these phrases like a native speaker.

Other verbs that express change

In Spanish there are many normal verbs that indicate a change of state when they are reflexive. Like with ponerse and quedarse, the final state of this change can be expressed with the verb estar + corresponding adjective.

The table below lists the most common Spanish verbs that express a change of state when reflexive.

Verb Translation Change of State
abrirse to open Closed to open.
alegrarse to make happy Sad/neutral to happy.
apagarse to turn off On to off.
calentarse to heat up Cold to hot.
cansarse to get tired Energetic/relaxed to tired.
cerrarse to close Open to closed.
dormirse to fall asleep Awake to asleep.
enamorarse to fall in love Like to love.
encenderse to turn on Off to on.
enfadarse to get angry Calm to angry.
enfriarse to freeze Hot to cold.
levantarse to get up Sitting/lying to standing.
mancharse to get dirty Clean to dirty.
marearse to get dizzy Feeling fine to feeling dizzy.
mojarse to get wet Dry to wet.
morirse to die Living to dead.
relajarse to relax Stressed to relaxed.
secarse to dry Wet to dry.
sentarse to sit Standing to sitting.
sorprenderse to be surprised Neutral to shocked.
tumbarse to lie down Standing to lying.