Ser and Estar

Ser and Estar

Ser and Estar are very important to study in a different section because it doesn’t exist an exact translation in English of them. For me saying I am, in Spanish is Yo soy, but also for me saying you are tired, in Spanish es “tu estas cansado”. Do you see that we use them depending on the different cases. This is why we are going to stop and take a time to study them.

Diference between Ser and Estar

To be or be? The proper distinction between the verbs ser and estar is one of the great problems of the students.

So far no one has written an official final rule when to use either verb.

Anyways, as a Certified Spanish Teacher I find the following explanation useful.

One of the incorrect and inefficient explanation that most resources say is that SER is for something permanent and ESTAR for something temporal. This is inefficient just looking at one example: Pepe esta muerto, there is nothing more permanent that death.

We have to add that yes SER is for something that do not change but ESTAR shows a transformation of something. For example: Pepe esta muerto, but before he wasn’t dead, María está cansada, but before she wasn’t tired.

These being said let´s see the uses:


  • The verb SER is used to identify, describe, define or indicate a relationship or family relationship:

What is that?

¿Qué es eso? Es un avión (definition) / Ana es dentista (profession) / Alberto es alto (description) / ¿Son italianos?/ La Sra. García es mi suegra (family relationship)


  • We also use it to indicate the time tiempo (Son las seis / Hoy es domingo);


  • To indicate quantity, brand or price (¿Cuántos son en tu familia? – En mi familia somos cinco / Mi celularl es Nokia) to indicate the time, the date and place of an event (what time is the party? At seven)


  • To indicate origin, material or possession (Mis abuelos son de Buenos Aires / El vestido es de seda).


  • The verb ESTAR it is used when we think that the characteristic of the subject is the result of a transformation (real or perceived). Simply naming a quality in our thinking has a mild assumption that may have been caused by an action or change: Pedro está enfermo (sick now because their status has changed due to the flu, but was healthy before).


  • We also use it to find something / someone in space (El gato está debajo de la mesa / Ana está en París)


  • Talking mood of the people (¿Qué tal está Paloma? – Está más animada, pero aún está un poco triste) (How’s Paloma? – She is feeling more relieved, but still a little sad)


  • To discuss the state or situation that is something / someone (the cat is lying / Elena is scared). (¿Dónde está Alicia? Está de vacaciones / Soy periodista, pero ahora trabajo de camarera).


Remember that in Spanish we use the term “Being of + name” to describe temporary situations (Where is Alice’s On vacation / I am a journalist, but now working as a waitress).


Let´s see some examples:

  • Una persona puede ser cariñosa, alegre, optimista y feliz, y puede estar enamorada, emocionada, ocupada y de buen humor.
  • Un gato puede ser grande, blanco, viejo y gruñón, y puede estar hambriento, encima del sofá y jugando con la pelota.
  • Una ciudad puede ser grande, ruidosa, cosmopolita, y puede estar lejos de otra ciudad, al norte de una provincia y en un país.
  • Una botella puede ser de cristal, fina, elegante, y puede estar llena, en la nevera y cerca del plato.

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