Ser vs Estar: Distinguish “to be” Verbs in Spanish

Learning the difference between the verbs “ser” and “estar” can be very confusing since they both mean “To be’ in English! Whereas they mean the same thing, they are used in completely different scenarios. Understanding and learning new and complicated stuff can be very annoying, but with this blog serving as your guide, understanding the difference between “ser” and “estar” will be a breeze!

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Anyways, as mentioned before, this article serves as your guideline for understanding the difference between the verbs “ser” and “estar”. I will be discussing these differences and how to use these verbs with their correct conjugations, with examples of course!

Studying girl
Source: Andrea Piacquadio, pexels.

 

Differences Between “Ser” and “Estar”

Both “Ser” and “Estar” mean “To be” in English, but in Spanish, they are used in different ways.

  1. Ser
  • Used to tell you WHAT a certain something is, the nature of this something.
  • Describes a permanent state of something.

For example:

ella es una persona energica” Which means “She is an energetic person.”

We are describing a permanent quality of this person, so “Es” is the correct conjugation of Ser in this example (more on this later).

  1. Estar
  • Used to tell you what something DOES or HOW.
  • Describes a temporary state of something.

“Ella **está** cansada” Which means “She is tired.”

In our previous example, we learned that this person is rather energetic, so her being tired is only a temporary state. As such, we use “Está” which is the correct conjugation of Estar in this example (more on this later).

How to Correctly Use “Ser”

Ser is used to describe the date, occupation, time, characteristic, relation, and origin.

Specifically, ser is used in conversation when the following is being described:

  • Relationship of one something to another.
  • What the thing is made of/The material.
  • What a thing, person, or animal has in its possession.
  • Describe the qualities of something.
  • Where something is taking place.
  • Religion.
  • Political Views.
  • Nationality.
  • Where the thing, person, or animal comes from.
  • Occupation.
  • The time and date.

How to Correctly Use “Estar”

Estar is used to describe temporary stuff like emotion, condition, location, action, or position. Estar is specifically used to describe the following:

  • The physical location of something.
  • Progressive tenses are those that end with the suffix -ing.
  • Emotions.
  • What something is doing.
  • The condition of something.
  • In what position something is (Where is it standing? Is it standing or sitting?)
  • Idiomatic expression.
  • Experiences.

Correct Conjugations of “Ser” and “Estar”

Both Ser and Estar follow an irregular conjugation pattern, which is why they are called irregular verbs. Here is a table containing the indicative present tense (what you are describing at this moment) of Ser and Estar:

Pronoun Ser Estar
Yo (me) Soy Estoy
Tú (you) Eres Estás
Él, ella, usted Es Está
Nosotros Somos Estamos
Vosotros Soís Estáis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes Son Están

 

For example, when I describe your relationship with someone, I will use Eres. When I describe how you are feeling right now, I will use Estás.

 

people in front of a blackboard
source: fauxels, pexels.

 

Ser and Estar Sentence Examples

Below are some everyday examples and how you would go about using either Estar or Ser:

1. Identifying people or objects

1.1 People:

Ser:

We are describing who this person is, and what this person does for a living.

Spanish: ****¿Quién es el camarero?

English: ****Who is the waiter?

Estar:

We are asking where the temporary location of the waiter is.

Spanish: ****¿Dónde está nuestro camarero?

English: Where is our waiter?

1.2 Objects:

Ser:

Spanish: Es rojo.

English: It is red.

We are describing an essential quality of something to identify it:

Estar:

Spanish: ¿donde esta lo rojo?

English: Where is the red thing?

We are describing the temporary location of the red object.

2. Occupation

Ser:

Spanish: ****Él es el director.

English: ****He is the headmaster.

We are describing who this person is, and what this person does for a living.

Estar:

Spanish: ¿Está enojado el director?

English: Is the headmaster angry?

We are asking what emotion the headmaster is feeling at that moment.

3. Time

Ser:

Spanish: Hoy es viernes

English: Today is Friday.

You are stating what day it is.

Estar:

Spanish: Manny está cansado de los lunes.

English: Manny is tired of Mondays.

You are describing how Manny feels about Mondays (Me too Manny, me too).

4. Origin

Ser:

Spanish: Ellos son de Korea.

English: They are from Korea.

We are describing the permanent origin of these people.

Estar:

Spanish: Estoy visitando Taiwan.

English: I am visiting Taiwan.

I am describing where I’m going, which is not permanent.

5. Relationships

A family on grass
source: Migs Reyes, pexels.

 

Ser:

Spanish: Nosotras somos hermanas/hermanos

English: ****We are siblings.

You are describing that you are biologically related, something that can’t be changed.

Estar:

Spanish: Pablo y Sofia son novios

English: Pablo and Sofia are dating.

We describe their relationship status, which is a condition or a state.

6. Describing Appearance

Ser:

Spanish: Ella es muy bonita

English: She is very pretty.

You are describing a permanent quality of a person.

Estar:

Spanish: Su cabello esta desordenado hoy

English: Her hair is messy today.

This person usually has well-kept hair, except today it is messy. This is not a permanent characteristic.

7. Location

Ser:

Spanish: La fiesta es en mi casa

English: The party is at my house.

I am describing where the party is taking place.

Estar:

Spanish: Mi casa está en Madrid.

English: My house is in Madrid.

I am describing the physical location of where my home is. It may seem permanent, but Estar is used for locations.

8. Talking about Foods

Ser:

Spanish: Pizza es mi comida favorita

English: Pizza is my favorite food

I am describing something about myself, in this case, my love for pizza!

Estar:

Spanish: La pizza está fria

English: The pizza is cold.

We are describing the state of the pizza.

9. Exercise

Ser:

Spanish: Ellas/Ellos son muy atléticas

English: They are very athletic.

We are describing a group of people.

Estar:

Spanish: Ellas/Ellos están emocionadas por hacer ejercicio

English: They are excited about exercising.

We are describing how they feel about exercising.

10. Having a conversation at a restaurant

Dinner table
source: Helena Lopes, pexels.

 

Ser:

Spanish: La comida es buena aquízx

English: The food is good here.

We are describing the qualities of the food at a restaurant.

Estar:

Spanish: El restaurante está muy ocupado.

English: The restaurant is very busy.

We are describing the current state of the restaurant.

 

¡Estoy triste de verte partir! (I am sad to see you go)

Learning the most difficult parts of a language doesn’t have to be all that difficult! With this guide, you will easily get the hang of using Ser and Estar!

Are you still struggling with this topic? Or maybe you struggle with another part of the Spanish language. Could it be that you are struggling to comprehend a different language entirely? No problem! All these problems can be solved at AmazingTalker! AmazingTalker is jam-packed with a wide variety of professional language tutors, in this case, online Spanish tutors, that can help you with your learning needs! The website is designed to help you find your perfect tutor, you can even customize the course to suit your learning needs. All of this and more at AmazingTalker.

 

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