Can I say

Ich bekam die Inkarnation des Todes.

and thus use bekommen equal to become in the English language? I am certain I read this sentence somewhere in an old text but I am not sure anymore.


That's a well known mistake.

Bekommen does not mean become.

Bekommen could be translated to "get" or "receive".

Become means "werden" in Germany.

  • 2
    And also in Austria. – Carsten S Aug 26 '15 at 20:27
  • 1
    Let's just go the whole mile and say in German, i.e. anywhere it's spoken. – Ingmar Aug 27 '15 at 3:51
  • in Switzerland only as long as we try to speak "proper German". The word bekommen in Swiss German is übercho. – Ralph M. Rickenbach Aug 27 '15 at 6:04

Yes, you can say it, because you can say everything you want. But it has not the meaning that you want to express.

Ich bekam die Inkarnation des Todes.
I've got the incarnation of death.

This means, that you received something (maybe in a box with a pretty bow) that is called “the incarnation of death”. Probably it's a book with this title.

The English word “become” and the German word “bekommen” are what linguists call “false friends”. They never mean the same.

English “To become something” = German “etwas werden”
“To become something” is never never never “etwas bekommen”. NEVER!

German “etwas bekommen” = English “To get something”
“etwas bekommen” is never never never “to become something”. NEVER!

Tom asks: “Can I become a lawyer?” = Tom fragt: „Kann ich ein Anwalt werden?“ (Tom is 15 years old and talking with his parents about what will be his profession in 10 years)

Tom fragt: „Kann ich einen Anwalt bekommen?“ = Tom asks: “Can I get a lawyer?” (Tom is accused of having committed a crime, he want assistance from a lawyer.)

But there are cases where “to get” translates into “werden”:

I am getting older. = Ich werde älter.

But never, never, never is “become” the same as “bekommen”.

  • 2
    «But never, never, never is “become” the same as “bekommen”»: Not true. It shares meaning 2.1 with its German cognate. – Carsten S Aug 27 '15 at 6:34
  • +1 to Carsten. Also, it is "lawyer". "Layer" bedeutet "Schicht, Ebene" – PMF Aug 27 '15 at 8:32
  • @CarstenS: Not true? Then please give an example (in both languages) where the English become has to be same meaning as the German bekommen. – Hubert Schölnast Aug 27 '15 at 8:33
  • „Der B-Promi-Status bekam Potter nicht.“ – Carsten S Aug 27 '15 at 8:36
  • Ok, actually it is not exactly the same, but close enough. My main point is that you fail to write anything interesting. The question lets me think that the OP already knows that bekommen generally does not mean werden, so the only information that your answer adds is NEVER NEVER NEVER, and that in a quite lengthy fashion and without any sources. – Carsten S Aug 27 '15 at 8:49

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