“Everything comes from everything, and everything is made out of everything, and everything returns to everything” -Leonardo Da Vinci
You may not always notice the changes that happen in your daily life, but when you look back at the past, you will definitely realize how different everything has become. This can also be applied to your language learning. You may not sense how much you are learning day to day, but after a long time of studying, you’ll see that you have in fact made a great deal of progress!
Here in Spain, we often seem to be very attached to our past. We love to maintain our traditions and folklore as a sign of our identity, which can be witnessed at any one of our festivals held across the country. However, while customs may not always change, people do. Traditional dances and songs are now performed by modern people who hold modern beliefs and demand modern rights. And these dances, which were at one time performed only by men, are now regularly performed by women, who are also often the ones who fight to keep these traditions alive. Thus, change is unavoidable.
Therefore, to talk about life is to talk about change. We are constantly changing, both physically and emotionally. In English, we can often express these changes with the verb “to get”: we get happy when we feel that we are succeeding, we get sick and then we get better, we get red when we get embarrassed, we lose weight or we get fat, we get married or we get cold feet, we get old, and we get nostalgic.
In the case of Spanish, change is often discussed using one of five different verbal expressions, whose use depends on the kind of change we are referring to. In other words, it works differently from English. Therefore, you are going to have to turn on a switch in your brain so that you can alter the way you speak about change. Hopefully, after some practice, this will become instinctive for you.
So, let’s start to organize the chaos by answering the following questions:
- What changes are we talking about?
- Which verbal expressions we do use for each?
One handy way to classify these is to categorize them as either external changes, internal changes or life changes. This way, you can easily remember them.
External changes can be thought of as the wrapping paper. These are the long lasting physical changes. For better or worse, the fact is our bodies change (although there are those who, like good wine, amazingly seem to get better with age!)
When speaking about about external changes, we use the following expressions:
Ponerse and quedarse + adjective
- Te pondrás muy cachas (fuerte) si sigues levantando pesas (You’ll get very buff if you keep on lifting weights).
- Ya, pero es que me quedé muy flojo después de la operación y necesito ponerme en forma (Yeah, I know, but I got very weak after my surgery and I need to get in shape).
Internal changes can be thought of as life’s footprints. They refer to the permanent changes to one’s personality. Life doesn’t treat us all the same way, and it can leave its mark deep in our souls. That’s what makes us who we are. In Spanish, we talk about these changes by using the following:
Volverse + adjective
- Así que Juan es tu nuevo jefe, ¿no? (So, Juan is your new boss, is that right?)
- Si, hija. Ni me lo nombres. Se ha vuelto muy creído y no hay quien lo aguante (Yes, my dear. Don’t even mention his name. He’s become so snobbish that nobody can stand him).
Life changes can occur when we want to do something different with our lives. This desire can lead us to change our ideology, profession, religion, etc. To make things a bit simpler, we’re just going to look at some examples of professional changes.
Professional Changes: Neutral
Professional changes are often voluntary, though they usually require some effort. Sometimes when we talk about these changes, we only want to speak about them in a neutral way. In other words, we simply want to state that a person has chosen a certain profession in life, without passing any judgement on the outcome. In this situation, we would use:
Hacerse + adjective or noun
- Siempre quiso ser como su padre, así que al final se hizo médico (He had always wanted to be like his father, so he eventually became a doctor).
- ¡Vaya! con lo religioso que era, siempre pensé que se haría cura (Wow! He was so religious, I had always thought he would become a priest).
Professional Changes: Positive
Sometimes we want to highlight the fact that someone has achieved something, or that their professional career has resulted in something positive. In this case, we would use:
Llegar a ser + noun
- Llegó a ser una deportista de élite (She became a top athlete).
Professional Changes: Negative
Other times, we want to express that someone has had a negative result in their chosen profession. For this kind of situation, we use one of the following expressions:
Acabar + Gerund + Noun
Acabar + Noun
- Sí, cierto. Prometía llegar a ser una reconocido tenista, pero desafortunadamente, acabó trabajando de recogepelotas / acabó de recogepelotas (Yes, that’s right. She had vowed to become a well-known tennis player, but unfortunately, she just ended up working as a ball girl).
Obviously, whether a change is positive or negative is quite subjective. So, in these situations, it all depends on the speaker’s point of view.
It also depends on whether or not you believe that change is really just a catalyst for progress. Because the truth is, whether you are willing to change or not, everything around you will do so regardless of how you feel. Therefore, you should be like the wind, take the initiative and change things yourself. Don’t let yourself be dragged kicking and screaming. If you truly feel that something is not working, it’s always best to just change the way you are doing it. And now, you know exactly how to express this in Spanish.
Hero Image by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)