I saw instances of "people go bald" on the web. I guess it should be the equivalent of "people become bald". Can I always use "go" instead of "become"? Like: Go broken Go sad

  • 1
    Idiomatically, people can go insane or become insane, and they can go bald or become bald. But the overlap is not exact. I've never heard someone say that someone else had gone annoying rather than become annoying; and on the other hand, "Gidget becomes Hawaiian" means something different from "Gidget goes Hawaiian."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 6:35

4 Answers 4


Alas, no, go is not a universal substitute for become. Go is idiomatic with certain words:

Go broke
Go for broke
Go crazy
Go silent
Go naked

But with broken or sad, not so much.

  • Food (and people?) can go bad, and things can go wrong, too. :) I'd say they are both very common expressions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 8:28
  • @Mari-LouA Things can go bad and then to worse, but not go sad.
    – deadrat
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 9:45
  • Let's not go nuts here, folks.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:31

For the case of baldness, I would say yes. As the definition of bald at TheFreeDictionary shows, both usages are valid.


"Go bald" can implicate an active choice or action. You can say "he decided to go bald" but it does not make much sense to say "he decided to become bald".

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    But that's not what the idiom means. To "go bald" is to have your hair fall out. Even if one decided they wanted to be bald, there are no (safe) ways to cause such defoliation.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:29
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    Perhaps user151232 means "to maintain a shaved head."
    – Brian Tung
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 0:50
  • 1
    @BrianTung - But that's not what "go bald" means.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 3:09
  • I don't use it that way, true. But I'm guessing at his meaning.
    – Brian Tung
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 3:13
  • People can go for the bald look (Sorry, but I can't upvote twice)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 6:40

You can find this example in merriam-webster dictionary.

He's already starting to go bald. [=to become bald]

  • The question is "Can I always use "go" instead of "become"? In some cases you can, like this definition. But there are other cases where they don't mean the same thing. So "always" isn't true.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 20:39

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