Understand Nuance: Six Verbs to Describe Going Through Changes

Verbs to Describe Going Through Changes

Let’s discuss six verbs and verb phrases we use to describe the process of going through changes in our lives.

While these verbs are similar, each of them is used slightly differently to describe different stages and attitudes towards change.

to get used to

You may already understand how to use the modal verb “used to” to describe habits and repeated actions in the past.

This is completely different than the expression “to get used to,” which is used to describe the process of becoming more comfortable with a new situation, or more familiar with a new location, workplace, apartment, house, or even a new routine. It can be used with just about any change.


  • I am getting used to my new haircut.
  • It took him a while to get used to his new coworkers when he switched jobs.
  • She never got used to living in the city, so she moved back to her rural hometown.

to be used to

After you have gone through a change, you then enter the state of being used to it, so you can use the verb to be.

This means you have already gone through the sometimes uncomfortable adjustment process.


  • I’ve been waking up early for years, so I’m used to it.
  • Kids today are used to having their own personal cell phones, but my generation used to share a phone line with the whole family!

to get/grow accustomed to

This expression is used in the same way as “to get used to,” but is a little less commonly used.

It may sound like a translation from a language like French, Spanish, or Italian, so I suggest that you use “to get used to” in order to sound more natural when speaking English.

However, if you are writing about changes and want to vary the vocabulary you use to describe an ongoing process of change, you may want to include this verb phrase to mix things up.


  • We had to change apartments because we never got accustomed to all the street noise.
  • Once you grow accustomed to eating less sugar, you may find normal desserts are too sweet!

to adjust to

This verb is used to describe the process of changing habits, ideas, and routines in a new situation.

It also indicates small tweaks or changes that help you go through change.


  • After leaving a darkened movie theatre, you need to give your eyes some time to adjust to brighter light outside.
  • Kids adjust to new schools more quickly than adults adjust to new workplaces.
  • After living abroad for a couple of years, I’m adjusting to American-style food again!

to acclimate to

This verb is used to describe the process of adjusting to a new climate or environment, particularly a biological process.

It may be used more conversationally to describe the process of adjusting to a new culture or lifestyle, particularly when describing the workplace.


  • Before doing physical activity at higher altitudes, you need to give your body some time to acclimate to the low oxygen level.
  • Certain species of plants have been able to acclimate to colder temperatures after repeated exposure.
  • My new colleagues took me out to lunch to help me acclimate to the new office culture.

to adapt to

This verb is similar to “adjust to,” but is commonly used to express active, conscious effort to become more comfortable in a new environment more quickly.

When a person is more flexible, they are able to adapt to changes more easily.


  • She makes an effort to adapt her eating habits to local food customs and usually dines at restaurants popular with the locals.
  • He adapts easily to change because he keeps an open mind.
  • There are new apps that help your body adapt to time differences when traveling.

Becoming comfortable in a new situation, environment, or place involves both physical and mental changes and shifts in routines, habits, and perspectives!

After this mini lesson, you should be able to use these new vocabulary words to describe your experience more accurately.

Your Turn

What’s something you’ve had to get used to recently? Leave a comment below using one of these verbs and I’ll let you know if it’s right.

As for me, I’m getting used to being back in the United States for a visit after working in South America for a couple of years!

For more tips on how to improve your vocabulary naturally, please watch these three in-depth workshops here.

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