Becoming something in the world of Spanish is not a simple task. In basic Spanish, there are 5 different verbs that mean “to become” and each one has its own distinct use. Here’s a brief look at them.
1. Ponerse (+ an adjective)
Ponerse + an adjective refers to a physical or emotional change that is not permanent. For example:
Cada vez que tengo que ir a la oficina del director, me pongo muy nervioso.
Every time I have to go to the principal’s office, I get very nervous.
2. Volverse (+ an adjective)
Volverse + an adjective is used for sudden or gradual chances in a person that are permanent. The most common use is when referring to someone who went crazy:
María se volvió totalmente loca.
María went totally crazy.
Note: Even though volverse is for “permanent” changes, it can also be “semi permanent” meaning María went temporarily crazy, not so crazy that she was moved to a mental institution.
3. Hacerse (+ an adjective or + a noun)
Hacerse is used for changes that come along due to a personal effort. For example:
Ella estudió por varios años y se hizo doctora.
She studied for many years and became a doctor.
4. Llegar a ser (+ an adjective or + a noun)
Llegar a ser is used for gradual changes, things that change over time. For example:
El rock nacional llegó a ser muy popular en Argentina.
Rock nacional became very popular in Argentina.
5. Convertirse en (+ a noun)
Convertirse en refers to a physical or very dramatic change. For example:
En la biblia, agua se convirtió en vino.
In the Bible, wine turned into water.
Note: Convertirse a is not interchangeable with convertirse en. Convertirse a refers to converting religions.
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