In Spanish, there is not just one word for the verb “to become,” but rather a fun group of verbs that you get to choose from as the speaker, depending on how radical, quick, or long lasting the change might be.
The verbs that are considered verbs of becoming in Spanish are the following:
Verbs of becoming are used to express a change in the quality or state of a person, animal, or thing. The change can be momentary or lasting, and voluntary or involuntary depending on the verb utilized. One more thing to note: most of them use a reflexive pronoun!
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Let’s delve into the world of verbs of becoming in Spanish!
Table of Contents
For a review of grammar terms used in this post, make sure to check out the Unpacking the grammar section at the end.
How to use ‘ponerse’?
Ponerse (to get, to become) has a certain “closeness” to the verb estar (to be). The change it implies is involuntary. Instead of expressing a quality, it implies a state. It is fleeting, passing. It refers to quicker changes in time, but those changes do not last long. Like estar, it is normally combined with adjectives that refer to health, mood, behavior, or physical appearance.
Se acerca la hora de mi examen de matemáticas y me estoy poniendo súper nerviosa.
The time for my math test is coming up and I am becoming nervous.
Para no ponerte enfermo, debes tomar tus vitaminas todos los días como lo recomendó el doctor.
To avoid becoming sick, you should take your vitamins every day as the doctor recommended.
While there is a closeness with the verb estar (to be), ponerse (to turn, to get, to become) is focused on the process of transformation, whereas estar is more about the end result.
Process → Marcela se puso triste al escuchar la noticia.
Marcela became sad after hearing the news.
End result→ Marcela está triste porque cancelaron el concierto.
Marcela is sad because the concert was canceled.
Adjectives that go with ponerse can also be used with estar. However, participles used as adjectives are not paired with ponerse as those types of adjectives denote completion.
✅Ana está cansada. ❌Ana se puso cansada.
Ana is tired.
👉 Ponerse is not always used as a verb of change, to learn the different uses of the verb poner(se), follow the link!
How to use ‘quedarse’?
Quedarse (to end up, to become) can be followed by adjectives or nouns preceded by a preposition. The change implied here is one that has happened as a consequence of other events. The change has been inflicted by other factors, and in many instances, they are negative changes, with the most obvious exception being quedarse embarazada (to become pregnant). The change can be permanent or long-term, but it can also be a change of mood, state, condition, or emotional state and, therefore, not necessarily long-lasting.
a. Example of permanence:
Después de cumplir 60 años, mi abuelo se quedó calvo. Usó un tupé el resto de su vida.
After turning 60, my grandfather became bald. He wore a toupee for the rest of his life.
b. Example of change of state or mood:
Cuando mis padres me dijeron que no podía ir a España de vacaciones, me quedé sin palabras.
When my parents told me I could not go to Spain on vacation, I became speechless.
So how is quedarse different from ponerse when they both refer to a change of state? Well, as mentioned before, ponerse focuses on the transformation, whereas quedarse focuses on the aftermath or reaction of another event. Because of this, participles used as adjectives can be used with quedarse:
Nos quedamos sorprendidos tras conocer el resultado de la votación.
We got surprised after learning the voting results.
⤷ TIP Sound like a native!
Some additional fun expressions with quedarse include:
|quedarse boquiabierto||to be left open-mouthed|
|quedarse en blanco||to draw a blank|
|quedarse helado||to be shocked, stunned|
|quedarse de una pieza||to be astonished, amazed|
|quedarse de piedra||to be stunned, paralyzed|
Oftentimes quedarse and quedar can overlap to show a change in state with living subjects, for example:
Esteban (se) quedó sordo después del concierto.
Esteban became deaf after the concert.
However, with non-living subjects, quedar (to stay, to remain) implies a long-term change and quedarse (to become) a short-term one.
La casa quedó vacía cuando nos mudamos.
The house remained empty when we moved.
La casa se quedó vacía cuando nos fuimos de vacaciones.
The house became empty when we left for vacation.
How to use ‘volverse’?
Volverse (to go + adjective, to become) is also used with involuntary changes, but these are more long lasting than ponerse as well as more gradual, not sudden changes. Volverse is used to talk about change in personality, attitude, character, or physical aspect of a person or, in some cases, an object. Volverse pairs up with adjectives that also pair with ser or with nouns — either on their own or preceded by an indefinite article (un, una, unos, unas).
Cuando supo que todos en la oficina lo veían como un líder, se volvió más amigable y sociable.
When he found out everyone at the office saw him as a leader, he became friendlier and more social.
La fotografía estuvo a la merced de los elementos por décadas. Cuando la toqué, se volvió polvo.
The picture was at the mercy of the elements for decades. When I touched it, it became dust.
Por causa de un robo, mi hermana se ha vuelto una persona desconfiada.
Due to a robbery, my sister has become a distrustful person.
How to use ‘hacerse’?
Hacerse (to turn into, to become) is a less “immediate” verb of change. In some cases, the change is gradual and implies the effort and active participation of the subject. It can show up with adjectives (those that pair with ser) and nouns that express profession/career/jobs. It can also be used for beliefs, religion, or political ideology.
Hace tres años Dianita comenzó a estudiar y se ha hecho doctora.
Three years ago Dianita started to study and she has become a doctor.
Mis padres se hicieron budistas y ahora esa filosofía me apasiona.
My parents became Buddhists and now I am passionate about that philosophy.
When adjectives that signal qualities of a person, such as strong/weak, heavy/light, rich/poor, young/old, the verb hacerse implies a gradual change, sometimes slow, that may be involuntary or simply part of a natural process.
Me miré al espejo y no podía creer lo vieja que me había hecho.
I looked at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t believe how old I had become.
⤷ TIP Time phrases with hacerse include:
|hacerse tarde||to get late|
|hacerse de día||to get light (sunrise)|
|hacerse de noche||to get dark (sunset)|
👉 Hacerse is not always used as a verb of change, to learn the different uses of the verb hacer(se), follow the link!
How to use ‘convertirse en’?
Convertirse en (to turn/change into, to become) conveys a completed and radical change that has taken place after a certain amount of time and after some effort. It is followed by a noun phrase.
Llevamos solo semanas de conocernos, pero ella y yo nos hemos convertido en grandes amigas.
We have only known each other for weeks, but she and I have become great friends.
David se convirtió en musulmán después de pasar seis meses sirviendo en los Cuerpos de Paz en el Medio Oriente.
David became a muslim after spending six months serving in the Peace Corps in the Middle East.
When convertirse is followed by the name of the ideology, use preposition a instead. In this case, convertirse a(l) means “to convert to.” Compare:
Mi primo se convirtió en católico. My cousin became a Catholic.
Mi primo se convirtió al catolicismo. My cousin converted to Catholicism.
⤷ TIP The uses of convertirse en can overlap with the uses of hacerse when referring to a change of belief or ideology.
Se hizo católico = se convirtió en católico. He became a Catholic.
El agua se convierte en vapor al hervir. Water becomes vapor when boiled.
How to use ‘llegar a ser’?
Llegar a ser (to manage to become, to eventually become) is used to convey the result of a slow process or change. It is usually related to a social change or to a person’s goal or fame/status, however these changes aren’t necessarily voluntary. Similar to convertirse en, it can be followed by noun phrases, though it does not typically refer to an ideology or belief.
Después de 10 años de estudios llegué a ser residente en un hospital. Me siento tan orgullosa de mis logros.
After ten years of studies I became a resident at a hospital. I feel so proud of my accomplishments.
Mi primo tocaba el piano divinamente y después de muchos conciertos, recitales y audiciones llegó a ser el pianista oficial de la sinfónica.
My cousin played the piano beautifully and after many concerts, recitals, and auditions he became the official pianist of the symphony.
Los precios de la vivienda llegaron a ser inalcanzables para muchos.
Housing prices became unreacheable for many.
Other verbs of change in Spanish
Asides from the verbs discussed above, there are other verbs in Spanish that can translate to “to become” or “to get.” A lot of these are derived from adjectives.
Here are some examples:
|Verb||Change of state|
|transformarse (en)||to transform into, to become|
|enriquecerse||to become wealthy|
|mejorarse||to get better|
|alegrarse||to become glad, happy|
|entristecerse||to become sad|
To sum it all up
I am sure you have seen them in publicity, in subtitles within foreign films, in articles…verbs of becoming are everywhere in Spanish and they are used all the time by native speakers.
In Spanish, we can say “to become” in many different ways. To recap what we’ve discussed we prepared a handy summary for you (p. 3).
As always, the more you practice, the more quickly you too can “become an expert in verbs of becoming” in Spanish!
In order to get you started in the journey of mastering verbs of becoming, I have included a practice for you here.
Reflexive pronouns are words like “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves” and they are used with verbs in which the action is done and received by the same subject. In Spanish they are: me, te, se, nos, os.
Adjectives: are words that are used to describe something, including people, animals, things, places, or ideas. In Spanish, they need to match in gender (masculine, feminine) and number (singular, plural). La casa morada (The purple house), Unos pasteles deliciosos (Delicious cakes).