11.6 Equivalents of “To Become”

Spanish has no single verb that renders all of the equivalents of “to become.” When it implies “to transform” or “to convert” (“to turn into”), Spanish uses one of two obvious cognates:

La tormenta se convirtió en ciclón. The storm became (turned into) a cyclone.
Los Arreaga se convirtieron al protestantismo. The Arreagas became Protestants (converted to Protestantism).
El agua se transformó en hielo. The water turned into (became) ice.

In most instances, however, one of several other less obvious verbs renders “to become.” In the examples that follow, notice that the reflexive pronoun is not translated.

Hacerse, which you have already seen, is the most “generic” of these verbs and has the most widespread usage.

Los Gudiño se hicieron ricos. The Gudiños became rich.
La situación se está haciendo normal. The situation is becoming normal.

Ponerse is most often seen to indicate a change in emotional or physical state.

Mi padre se pone alarmado si llego a casa muy tarde. My father becomes alarmed if I arrive home very late.
Nando se puso pálido al ver el accidente. Nando turned (became) pale upon seeing the accident.

Volverse may apply to a general situation or to an emotional state, but it often carries the connotation of a sudden or quick and sometimes violent or surprising change. Volverse loco is the equivalent of “to go crazy” (literally or physically).

Gabriel se volvió furioso cuando rompí la cámara.La manifestación se volvió violenta.
Gabriel became furious when I broke the camera.
The protest became violent.

Quedar(se) also occasionally translates as “become,” especially when a negative or unfortunate connotation is implied. In this usage quedar may or may not appear as reflexive:

El señor Marroquín quedó viudo. Mr. Marroquín became a widower.
El científico se está quedando enfadado. The scientist is becoming angry.

When you see any of the above four verbs and a literal translation does not make sense, it is likely that the desired translation is “to become.”

A common expression that also translates as “to become” is llegar a ser, which may also be rendered as “to come to be.” The implication, as in the English translation, is that the process may take or have taken place over a long period of time.

Llegaron a ser ricos a través de mucho trabajo duro. They became (came to be) rich by means of much hard work.
Venancio Pelayo llegó a ser presidente del senado. Venancio Pelayo became president of the senate.

Vocabulario básico


exiliarse- to exile oneself


la censura- censorship
los Pirineos- the Pyrenees
el renombre- renown, fame

Last revised on June 23, 2021.