Spanish Grammar

Verbs of Change in Spanish

Verbs of change in Spanish express a transformation of the subject of the sentence. This change can be physical, about the personality, ideology, mood… Most of these verbs are used in their reflexive form (with the pronouns me, te, se, nos, os); this is because the subject is directly affected by the verbal action.

Among the most used verbs of change in Spanish we can find the following ones: ponerse, quedarse, hacerse, volverse, convertirse, transformarse, and llegar a ser. Each one has its particularities and the changes they express can be voluntary, involuntary, progressive, sudden, permanent and temporary.

Let’s start with verbs that express changes in the state or situation of the subject. In this way, they are related to the verb estar. But before we continue, we recommend that you review the basic differences between the verbs ser and estar in Spanish. You already know that you have at your disposal our free grammar resources section of Spanishviaskype.com.

Verbs of Change in Spanish: ponerse

The verb ponerse expresses a change of mood, physical or health. Also, the transformation occurs suddenly and involuntarily. It is usually followed by adjectives.

Cuando tenía que hablar en público siempre me ponía muy nervioso. Recuerdo una vez que, incluso, me puse enfermo unas horas antes.

However, it is also possible to use it with nouns and in periphrases. If you don’t remember what verbal periphrases are, read this article before continuing:

Lo mejor para ponerse en forma es ponerse a hacer deporte ahora mismo.

The Verb Quedarse to Express Change

The verb quedarse, on the other hand, refers to a change from one state to another, the latter one remaining permanent or lasting. Also, the transformation is usually physical and involuntary, often negative for the subject. It is also followed by adjectives or with preposition plus nouns.

Debido al accidente, mi amigo se ha quedado ciego. Cuando me lo dijeron, me quedé de piedra.

As we said before, verbs of change in Spanish ponerse and quedarse are related to the verb estar, since they express changes of state. Thus, we can make the following equivalences:

  • Me puse enfermo = estuve enfermo

  • Se ha quedado ciego = está ciego

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Next, we are going to see some verbs that are related to the verb ser, since they express a transformation in the characteristics or qualities of the subject.

Verbs of Change in Spanish: Volverse

Volverse expresses a change in the subject’s personality. This transformation is involuntary and often long-lasting. Like the verb quedarse, it usually has a negative nuance. It is usually followed by adjectives describing a person’s character.

Recuerdo que mi hermano no era así; se ha vuelto muy egoísta. Aunque, quizá sea mi percepción; después de la pandemia, todos nos hemos vuelto un poco paranoicos.

The Verb hacerse in Spanish

Another of the most commonly used verbs of change in Spanish is hacerse. Unlike the previous verbs, hacerse expresses a voluntary change of the subject. This transformation is usually the consequence of a process initiated by the subject. It usually refers to changes in profession, age, ideology, religion, state… It is usually followed by adjectives or nouns.

Mis padres se han hecho budistas. Dicen que es la mejor manera de estar conectados con su espíritu. Incluso se han hecho profesores de meditación. Tienen muchos alumnos. Si siguen así, a lo mejor se hacen ricos.

Changes with the Verbs Convertirse and Transformarse

The verbs convertirse and transformarse express radical change. They are widely used to express physical transformations in science. They can also express an implausible or marvelous change. They are used with the preposition en and a noun.

Este “youtuber” se ha convertido en un fenómeno de masas. Algunos seguidores seguro que piensan que puede convertir el agua en vino. La verdad es que las redes sociales se han transformado en una droga para muchos.

The Periphrasis Llegar a Ser to Express Change

Among the verbs of change in Spanish, there is a verbal periphrasis: llegar a ser. This construction expresses a transformation that is the consequence of a progressive and positive process for the subject. It can be formed with an adjective or a noun.

Después de mucho esfuerzo, he llegado a ser un músico reconocido. Si continúo así, puedo llegar a ser famoso y rico.

In the same way as we did above with the verb estar, let’s check whether these verbs of change can be equivalent to the verb ser.

  • Se ha vuelto egoísta = ahora es egoísta

  • Se ha hecho budista = ahora es budista

  • Se ha convertido en un fenómeno = es un fenómeno

  • He llegado a ser músico = soy músico

As we have seen, the verbs of change in Spanish have very similar meanings and their differences are limited to small nuances. Therefore, our recommendation is to use them in context. To do this, it is best to take classes with well-trained native teachers who can help you master these verbal forms. With practice and perseverance llegarás a ser un hablante competente.

Infographic about the verbs of change in Spanish