This question has come from a conversation at loggerheads. I can't find the answer online. There are two positions on which is the correct expression to use when starting a job.For the example, I've used a job as a plumber.

Person A states "John becomes a plumber today" Person B states "John has started working as a plumber today".

My understanding is that person A, while it is used in causal conversations is incorrect because it suggests a changing into something when they haven't changed, they added something to who they are. A job. Can someone please advise which is formally correct and if using becomes is still incorrect use of the word or how they fit together.

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, herisson, user66974, Chenmunka Aug 17 '16 at 8:39

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    becomes an X can refer to the first day doing a new type of job....So becomes a plumber can be semantically equivalent to: started working as a plumber today. Both are correct. – Lambie Aug 15 '16 at 14:01
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    CDO even gives the example 'He started his working life as an engineer but later became a teacher.' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '16 at 14:37

Short answer: B is correct.

However, you could say that John "becomes a plumber" when he receives the qualifications necessary to work as a plumber (let's assume that these exist for the sake of argument). At this point, he's a plumber, without a plumbing job. Then when he gets his first job, and goes to it, you could say "John started working as a plumber today".

In other words, there is a state of "being a plumber", which is an abstract concept, and exists independent of whether you're actually doing a job.

Rather than getting some on-paper qualifications, the test for whether or not one is a plumber could be simply whether one has actually done any professional plumbing jobs. In this case, if it's John's first job as a plumber, you could say that he "becomes a plumber" on starting the job.

This would be unusual, I think, but it does mean that you could potentially use statement A.

  • That qualifications exist need not be merely assumed. This is a skilled trade, so the fundamental qualification is to possess the relevant skill and know-how--those make the plumber, who remains a plumber, and one hopes a good plumber, even when the skills are not in active use, as when said plumber is sleeping. And the relevant skill and know-how are generally not to be acquired in a single day. – Brian Donovan Aug 15 '16 at 13:46
  • @BrianDonovan I agree, but the choice of a plumber was just an example so I wanted to make it clear that we were still talking hypothetically (and therefore generally), rather than anything specific about actual plumbers. Some other examples might be more or less skilled, and not possess any any-paper qualifications – Max Williams Aug 15 '16 at 13:48
  • @MaxWilliams thanks. so its learnt vs starts if I understand your answer correctly. Thanks for that.looking at the comments, if it was a job that didn't need a degree, then I guess its "when they start work as but after they start work and learn the job they have then become a waitress. – OneQuestion Aug 17 '16 at 6:56
  • I think with any job the latest point at which you could say you have "Become a 'X'" is when you actually start doing it. But with some jobs you could say you were an 'X' before you actually start doing it. – Max Williams Aug 17 '16 at 7:30

Both of these could be viewed as correct.

'John has started working as a plumber today' is obviously correct (assuming that this actually is the first day on which he works as a plumber.)

'John becomes a plumber today' can also be viewed as correct, depending on what you consider 'being a plumber'. While one person could consider that John 'becomes a plumber' on the day he receives his plumber's license, or maybe the day he passes his exams, you could also take the view that John becomes a plumber on the day he first does plumbing (and likewise stops being a plumber on the day he retires, even if he is still technically qualified). None of these views is necessarily the only 'correct' one.

In other words this isn't about correct grammar, it's about what you understand by 'being a plumber', which is a matter of interpretation.

Grammatically speaking, both "John becomes a plumber today" and "John has started working as a plumber today" are correct, and there is no problem with using either.

  • No; essentially it's about whether 'becomes a plumber (etc)' is idiomatic for 'starts a job as a plumber (etc). Which it is. It's a slightly different sense from that used in 'becomes a butterfly'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '16 at 14:41
  • Yes, I agree completely. That's exactly what it's about. Although, as I say, people might disagree about exactly when someone 'becomes a plumber'. – DJClayworth Aug 15 '16 at 15:31
  • 'Become a refuse disposal operative' doesn't have the qualification hiccup, and leaves us solely with OP's question: Can one use 'become an X' for 'start work as an X'? – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '16 at 15:44
  • @EdwinAshworth Yes. – DJClayworth Aug 15 '16 at 15:50

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