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Published on: Grammar Bites

Verbs of change: ponerse, hacerse, volverse

The so-called Spanish verbs of change are ordinary verbs that take on a slightly different meaning or connotation when we add the pronoun ‘se’. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones!

*Please note that these verbs don’t always have a direct equivalent in English.

Ponerse: 

It express a temporary change in someone’s health, mood, color, physical aspect or behavior. We pair this verb with adjectives.

  • Esteban se puso nervioso cuando estaba hablando con su jefe. Esteban got nervous while talking to his boss.
  • Victor no vino a la fiesta porque se puso enfermo. Victor didn’t come to the party because he got sick.
  • Susan se puso roja (colorada) cuando Enrique la quedó mirando. Susana turned red while Enrique was staring at her.

We can also use this verb of change with the following preposition:

  • Los pantalones campana se han puesto de moda. Bell bottoms have become fashionable.
  • Los estudiantes se pusieron de pie para saludar al Director. The students stood up to greet the Principal.

Exception: Please note that ponerse is never directly followed by nouns:

  • Ponerse felicidad. (Incorrect)
  • Ponerse enojo. (Incorrect)
Volverse

We use this verb along with adjectives. We use to indicate an involuntary change, and it has a negative connotation.

  • Francisco se volvió triste después de la muerte su padre (–> cambio  involuntario). Francisco became a sad person after his father’s death (–> involuntary change).
  • Los Pérez se volvieron soberbios despues de ganar la lotería. The Perez family became haughty after winning the lottery.
  • Ricardo se ha vuelto egoísta desde que es el mejor estudiante de la clase. Ricardo got selfish since he’s been at the top of the class

Note that we can use this verb of change with nouns, but they must be preceded by indefinite articles (un, una, unos, unas):

  • Ellos se han vuelto unas personas malas. They’ve become bad people.
  • Margarita se volvió una mujer exitosa. Margarita became a successful person.
  • Benjamín se volverá un empresario reconocido. Benjamín will be a well-known business man.

We can also use volverse along with adjectives that describe physical or mental traits to express a negative change:

  • Nancy se volvió loca después de su divorcio. Nancy went mad after her divorce.
  • Ellos se han vuelto insoportables. They’ve become insufferable.
  • Luis se ha vuelto un poco raro. Luis has become a bit strange.
Hacerse = llegar a ser

We use this verb of change to indicate someone’s effort, will and active participation in the change process. We use it with adjectives and nouns that express professions/trades/careers:

  • Daniel se hizo doctor con mucho esfuerzo. Daniel worked very hard to become a doctor.
  • Ella se hizo una deportista de élite. She became an elite athlete.

We can also use to express a willing change of religion or ideology:

  • te has hecho muy conservadora con este trabajo. You have become very conservative while doing this job.
  • La familia Cervantes se ha hecho cristiana. The Cervantes family has converted to Christianism

We can use hacerse with adjectives that express different degrees of a characteristic, such as fuerte-débil, pesado-ligero, rico-pobre, joven-viejo, etc.

  • Maritza se ha hecho muy fuerte con el entrenamiento. Maritza has gotten really strong because of her training.
  • Mi abuela se hizo mayor de pronto. My grandmother suddenly got older.
  • Nosotros nos hicimos ricos con este negocio. We got rich with this business.
Activities for private students & members: 

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