Discover the differences between Ser and Estar in Spanish and how to use them correctly.
We use the verbs ser and estar in Spanish just as the English Be verb, to indicate a state of being.
Distinguishing their different meanings and understanding the context or situation where they are used will be fundamental in achieving fluent communication in Spanish.
It’s perfectly normal while learning the language, some questions may come to mind such as: When to use ser or estar? What are the differences between ser and estar? Is it challenging to learn how to use ser and estar?
No worries, we’ve got you covered. Stick with us and we’ll show you all the examples and teach you all the rules you need to know about using ser and estar to expand your Spanish vocabulary. This is the perfect guide to mastering once and for all these mythical Spanish verbs.
What Ser and Estar are used for?
Like the English Be verb, in Spanish, we use ser and estar to express the existence and state of being of someone or something.
In the following examples, you will notice how they differ in form
|Spanish||Ser/Estar||Soy de Guadalajara||Estoy en Guadalajara|
|English||To Be||I am from Guadalajara||I am in Guadalajara|
Another way to identify and compare it is with the list of pronouns:
|I am||Yo soy||Yo estoy|
|You are||Tú eres||Tú estas|
|She is (Or He/it)||Ella es||Ella está|
|We are||Nosotros somos||Nosotros estamos|
|You all are||Ustedes son||Ustedes están|
|They are||Ellos son||Ellos están|
However, since they have different meanings in Spanish, you must recognize the precise moment and circumstance to use them without losing the conversation thread.
When should I use the verbs Ser and Estar?
Spanish verbs Ser and Estar are the basis of every conversation. To learn when to use these two verbs correctly in Spanish, you must first understand their distinctions.
Difference between Ser and Estar
The most important difference between Ser and Estar is that
- Ser is used to refer to a fact or characteristic of a person or object.
- Estar is used to describe perceptions, opinions, conditions, and any fact or circumstance that may vary over time.
However, a slightly simpler way to illustrate their differences is by describing them with “permanent” and “temporary” states.
The verb ser is used to define permanent situations, for instance: your nationality or your profession. They are immovable facts and characteristics that will not change in form. If you were born in Canada, you are Canadian and will be so forever.
On the other hand, estar is used to describe temporary states of things, that may vary over time or by circumstance: emotional mood, marital status, or place of work. You can change your mood, but never the place where you were born.
You can identify when to use ser or estar to answer certain questions:
- Ser: responds to What and Who.
- Estar: responds to Where and How.
Now that we understand what they are used for, let’s see how to put them into practice in Spanish for everyday situations.
Ser vs Estar according to Context and Situation
If we use any of these two verbs incorrectly, we may completely change the meaning and sense of a sentence. Let’s take this case for instance:
If in a sentence we refer to a place being cold with estar, we are referring to the fact that it is very cold at that moment. If, on the contrary, we use ser, we would state that the place is always cold.
When we communicate as Spanish speakers, we must respond to a number of contexts and circumstances that, while they mean nearly the same thing in English, reflect two different facts in Spanish.
Let’s review how to use Ser and Estar in the most common everyday situations:
Most Common Uses of the Verb Ser
As already mentioned, we use ser to describe permanent features of a person or a thing. Here are some examples:
If you want to identify an object or a person in a precise way or to evidence a fact or action:
||He is a man|
||That is a vehicle|
||They are fighters|
||Maria is a woman|
You can also refer to any time, date, hour or year:
||The party is on October 30th.|
||Next month is my birthday|
||It is 9 a.m.|
||It is time to go|
||The meeting is in two minutes and it is in the upstairs office|
Ser is used to talk about where someone or something comes from:
||This cacao is from Venezuela|
||The car is imported|
||Juan is from a distant city|
||I am from the coast|
Ser is used to identify the relationship of a person with another, either by family ties (mom, dad, and grandma), emotional ties (boyfriend, girlfriend, and friends), or professional ties (boss and colleagues). Here are some examples:
||Alejandra is my girlfriend|
||I’m Fernanda’s boyfriend|
||Mr. Gomez is my boss|
||Camila is my cousin|
5. Characteristics or Descriptions
We can express and define the characteristics of someone, something, or a situation, as well as describe a fact or quality in general that cannot be modified over time by using ser:
||María is a happy person|
||Jose is very smart|
||I’m tall and thin|
||They are a winning team|
||My house is big|
In this case, ser is used to express how someone makes a living: a profession: lawyer, doctor, businessman, among others or a work occupation: as a machine operator, secretary, among others, also to point out when a person is passionate about an activity: walker, sportsman, activist, etc. Some examples:
||I am a lawyer|
||Those children are students|
||They are firemen|
||Maria is an airplane pilot|
7. Religion and political ideology
If we want to point out the political ideology or religion of a person or group of people, we must use ser:
||I’m a Catholic|
||They are a group of Christians|
||Alejandro is a communist|
||David is Liberal|
We can also point out a person’s possessions, material or immaterial, by using ser:
||This is my vehicle|
||This is my sister’s car|
||The mail is from the neighbor|
||That is my wife’s office|
Most Common Uses of Estar
We use estar to describe any action or characteristics that are temporary. Among the most common situations in which the verb estar is used we have:
When we refer to someone’s physical condition: when in pain, tiredness or illness, a person’s status or when describing circumstances, we use estar:
||Maria is disabled|
||The children are happy with their gifts|
||I am in a lot of discomfort|
||Carlos is unemployed|
||Gilberto is dead laughing with your jokes|
||Jose is in a lot of trouble|
Estar is also used to talk about any action that is taking place (Spanish present progressive). For example:
||I am writing|
||Paula is cooking|
||The children are playing in the park|
||At work we are celebrating the promotion of my boss|
A person’s mood is considered a temporary state. So, to express our own or someone else’s emotion at a specific moment we use estar:
||I am upset because the order I placed has not yet been delivered|
||Alejandra is euphoric, as she has been admitted to the university|
||My mom is happy because Christmas is coming|
||Luis is sad because his soccer team lost|
By using estar we can refer to the place where an object or a person is located:
||The phone is in your bedroom|
||My house is near the park|
||I am in Margarita on vacations|
||We are in the restaurant on the corner for a delicious lunch|
||The school is very close to my residence|
Estar is also used to refer to the position in which an object is found or someone’s physical posture:
||My mother is sitting in the dining room|
||I am bending over doing some repairs|
||My mother is upright in her seat|
||The waiter is sitting in his time of rest|
Having trouble learning how to conjugate the verb Estar in all tenses? Check out our easy Estar conjugation chart where we got it all covered.
Ser vs Estar: How the meaning of a sentence changes according to the use of these verbs
A verbal expression in Spanish can be made up of several words. However, the meaning of the phrase will be drastically altered depending on the verb used.
Here are some examples and their explanation:
- Ser: Soy amoroso – I am loving (It means that you are a loving person)
- Estar: Estoy Amoroso – I’m in love (It means that in that moment I find myself loving, but not necessarily always so)
- Ser: Soy orgulloso – I am proud (It refers to the fact that he is a conceited person)
- Estar: Estoy orgulloso – I am proud (It refers to the happiness of having reached a goal or objective)
- Ser: Ser bueno/ Be good (It refers to the qualities of the person)
- Estar: Estar bueno/ Be good/Be Hot (Refers to a physical state of the person considered attractive)
- Ser: Ella es Hermosa/ She is beautiful (It refers to a beautiful woman)
- Estar: Ella está hermosa/ She is beautiful/ She looks beautiful (He means that at that moment, she is beautiful; perhaps at another time that beauty will wither)
- Ser: La fruta es verde/ The fruit is green (Refers to the color of the fruit)
- Estar: La fruta está verde/The fruit is green (It refers to the fact that the fruit is not yet ripe)
Both of these verbs end up causing students a lot of headeches with the tricky and confusing conjugation tables out there. No worries! We’ve got your back with this speedy guide to Ser and Estar conjugations.
Idiomatic expressions that use Ser
Having studied the uses of Ser and Estar in Spanish it is impossible to overlook the idiomatic expressions. Idioms don’t mean what they literally are expressing. These sayings are to be taken fully as phrases. They are full of colors and images that contribute to the linguistic richness of Spanish, making it fun to learn. Let’s know some of them:
- Ser del año de la pera: to be very old.
- No ser para menos: to justify something.
- Ser de armas tomar: to be fearless, daring.
- No ser plato de buen gusto: not something pleasant to have or do.
Idiomatic expressions that use Estar
Here are some examples of Spanish idioms using estar:
- Estar hasta las narices: to be fed up with something or someone.
- Estar al corriente: to be up to date.
- Estar en la luna: to be out of touch of reality
- Estar por ver: in expectation of what would happen
- Llegar a estar: to become
Spanish is a fascinating and colorful language spoken by millions of people around the globe. Get here a glimpse of the diversity in culture in all Spanish-speaking countries of the world!
Mastering the uses and applications of the verbs Ser and Estar will be the first step for you to establish a conversation in Spanish like any native.
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