What’s the Difference between Be and Become?

Be describes the state or condition of something.

be, to be, is, are, verb, English, ESL, English verb, become

She is mad.


be, to be, is, are, verb, English, ESL, English verb, become

This beer is green.

Become, in contrast, means to start or to be involved in a process of change.

be, to be, is, are, verb, English, ESL, English verb, become

These kittens are growing bigger daily. They are becoming cats.

be, to be, is, are, verb, English, ESL, English verb, become

This seed is changing. It is becoming a tree.

be, to be, is, are, verb, English, ESL, English verb, become

Our world is polluted. The air, land, and oceans are contaminated.

be, to be, is, are, verb, English, ESL, English verb, become

Unfortunately, it is becoming even more polluted.

Today in class, my students were working on the unreal past conditional. They were trying to change history. Some wrote the following sentence, which I said was wrong. Can you see why?

If Steve Jobs hadn’t founded Apple, the iPhone would not have been popular.

I told them that they should write:

If Steve Jobs hadn’t founded Apple, the iPhone would not have become popular.

The reason is this: The iPhone is still popular now. They want to talk about something in the past–the start of iPhone’s popularity.

Here are some more descriptions of the difference between these verbs for further study:

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