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Objective

Clarify the difference (if any) and usages of "Pasar a ser" and "Convertirse en".

Question

To say "X turned into Y" or "X is transformed into Y", such as "Chucky becomes a murderous doll", do are they both correct?

  • Chuckey pasa de ser un muñeca normal a ser un muñeca asesino.
  • Chuckey se convierte en un muñeca asesino de un muñeca normal.
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"pasar a ser" is used when you specify the previous and the new status (chuckey pasa de ser un muñeco normal a un muñeco asesino) while "convertirse en" is used when the initial status is implicit or unknown (Chuckey se convierte en un muñeco asesino, you may assume that it was a plain doll).

Your second phrase is not correct, but I can't tell you why, the correct phrase would be "Chuckey se convierte en un muñeco asesino cuando era un muñeco normal"

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    Thank you for the answer. It looks 'convertirse' cannot take 'from …' but only 'into …'. So to form a sentence "from A into B", pasar a set A de set B" is the one. – mon May 20 '15 at 17:37
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I see no substantial difference. The only stuff I'd add, are the following:

  • Chuky pasa de ser un muñeco normal a un muñeco asesino.

  • Chuky se convierte en un muñeco normal a un muñeco asesino.

However, the following sentence exceeds this usage:

Chuky pasa de ser un muñeco normal a ser un muñeco asesino.

There's no need to use ser twice since you already mentioned before.

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JesusS is wrong. "El señor pasó a ser veterinario." we don't know what he was before. I have no issue with using "ser" twice. I like it. Oor don't use it at all: Chuky pasa de muñeco normal a muñeco asesino.)

There is a degree in changes.

For instance, Transformó implies a deeper change, in something so strong that you can feel you can grasp it. So it is normally a change in shape. If you say Chuky se transformó , I picture his face changing into a murderous one.

Convirtió is like transformó, but less strong. So Chukey acquire the attitudes of a killer. He was mean, and perhaps his face changed.

Pasó a ser just implies that he played the role. For instance, Chuckey killed by accident, and know he is called a killer. It is true that this meaning can be used for "convertir". But still convertir can go beyond in most cases; some sort inner change. Once more, this is no the case of "pasar a ser". Actually, in example above, paso a ser veterinario, implies he has no studies on medicine or animals, he just somehow manage to get enough knowledge. However, convirtió implies a process, perhaps no schooling, but he went trough something. Finnaly, pasar a ser is also very unexpected, almost magical. You can say: La oruga se convirtió en mariposa, but you cannot say pasó a ser mariposa.

"Chuky pasa a ser" describes better the change, since it was magical, and it was not a process, but a change from one scene to the other. "Chuky de convierte" means that there are real, complex and interesting thing going in this change. You can even get to think that it took half movie for this change to take place.

There is no negative connotation in convertirse. Go ask the butterflies.

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There is no difference in the meaning. The only difference I can think of is user preference.

One might think that "convertir" (become/transform) has a more negative connotation than "pasar a ser" (turn into) because one has an active form and the other has a passive form. It would mean that the one who "actively" transforms is worse that the one who is turned (by ...) into something.

Also, "pasar a ser" (for short "pasar a/de" is more used to talk about impersonal phenomena when you want to specify the values. For example:

  • En verano, la temperatura promedio pasa de 15°C a 25°C.
  • Mi cuenta de banco pasa de 400 dólares a 10000 dólares gracias al bono.
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