Evolving and disrupting: verbs meaning ‘change’

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by Kate Woodford

In a post last month, we looked at adjectives and phrases that describe change. This post will look at some of the many verbs that mean ‘change’.

A lot of ‘change’ verbs mean ‘to change slightly’, but some have additional meanings. For example, if you adapt something, you change it slightly for a different use:

Most of the vegetarian options can be adapted for vegans.

To adjust something is to make a small change to it, usually to make it more suitable:

You can adjust the height of the chair. 

If you modify something, you change it slightly to improve it or make it more acceptable:

The proposals were modified and approved.

The informal verb tweak means the same as ‘modify’:

Just tweak the last paragraph and it will be fine.

Other ‘change’ verbs describe big changes. For example, if you transform something, you completely change its appearance or character in a very positive way:

Overnight, technology transformed the whole industry.

The area has been transformed into a major tourist attraction.

If you overhaul a system, you completely change it so that it is more successful:

The whole healthcare system needs to be completely overhauled.

Meanwhile, if something revolutionizes the way something is done or the study of a particular subject, it makes great changes to it that are very positive:

The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other.

Some verbs specifically mean that you change something from one thing into another thing, such as the verb convert:

We converted the third bedroom into an office.

You can also say that you turn something into another thing:

It used to be a library but they turned it into a restaurant.

The verb evolve has two senses. When animals and plants evolve, they change and develop over a very long period of time:

It’s now thought that all species evolved from a single cell.

More generally, ‘evolve’ means to gradually develop:

Languages evolve constantly.

The company has evolved over the years.

Another ‘change’ verb with a very specific meaning is morph. When one image or form changes and becomes another, it is said to morph into the second image:

The screen showed a man morphing into a tiger.

Morph is now also used more generally to mean ‘to gradually change in appearance or character’: The protests have morphed into a generally anti-government protest.

The verb shift is also used in this area. If ideas and opinions shift, they change:

Attitudes towards meat-eating have shifted considerably in the last few years. 

I’ll finish with a relatively new ‘change’ verb that is heard especially in business. If a company or product disrupts the way that an industry traditionally works, it causes it to change:

Their move into publishing disrupted the whole industry. 


7 thoughts on “Evolving and disrupting: verbs meaning ‘change’


    Thanks but I would also like to know how best I can refer to a ‘red-hot charcoal’ burning in a stove and cooking in general

  2. Excellent, I was struggled to recognize the different between “adjust” and “modify”. Thank U a lot Kate Woodford. Pls, keeping writing and giving us more great articles.

  3. Sibongile

    Hi I wohld like to know more about preposition somstimes it hard for me to make a correct sentence using a preposition.
    Thank you

  4. Eric

    Really nice post it bigger mind i dig it always anyway, Kate mind if i ask itty butty question if you want to look year passed post how can do that sporadic got fox when i key in search bar your answer indeed helpful

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