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Become vs. bekommen - Tricky False Friends in German and English

These two lookalike verbs are as confusing to English as they are to German native speakers. "False friends" (or "false cognates") like become and bekommen are pairs of words that are often similar in spelling but with a significantly different meaning. The last six entries of our blog series revealed the surprising meaning of a German Gift, English also and its meaning in German, the English "bald" vs. the German "bald", the difference between “brand” vs ”Brand”, showed that "spenden" in German is not what you might think it is, and explained why schmuck wouldn't be considered as an insult by a German native speaker. In this post, I will explain the difference in meaning between become and bekommen.

While the English word "to become" translates as "werden" in German, "bekommen" means "to get, to receive" in English. So when I overheard some German tourists in a London restaurant placing their order by saying "Can I please become a beefsteak", they didn't quite say what they intended to.

On our German Language Blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!", you also find posts on very German things to do, long German nouns, why the English word fun is used in a different way in German, why Am Morgen and morgens are not the same, on the difference between blenden and blend, as well as reading comprehension exercises at A2 German, B1 German, B2 German We also warn you about the top 5 mistakes in German and tell you how to avoid them, and we have articles that are of interest to language learners more generally, such as a review of online dictionaries Linguee,, dict.leo, and Collins, and a comparison between Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, and Busuu.

Find out more about our German lessons and online German courses here.

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