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Ser vs Estar Rules

 

The use of the verbs Ser vs Estar is one of the most important subjects for beginners learning Spanish.

 

Although it is often regarded as a confusing subject, it is much easier than it seems.

 

In this lesson we will talk about the ser vs estar rules, the differences between them and the circumstances in which they are used.

 

 

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How to Choose between Ser vs Estar?

 

“Ser, Estar” are both the equivalent in Spanish of the verb “to be”, but they are used in different situations.

 

 

For example,

If you want to say: “he is a man”, in Spanish you would say: “el es hombre”

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - man

 

 

 

If you want to say: “he is drunk”, in Spanish you would say:  “el está borracho”

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - drunk man

 

 

So, how do we know when to use each verb? When to use Ser vs Estar?

 

 

When to use the Verb “Ser

 

Ser is used to talk about permanent, essential characteristics related to the subject of a sentence;

 

It is used to describe what something is.

 

 

Ser is also used …

 

When Talking About the Time (Date / Days of the Week)

 

When Talking About  Possessions

 

When Talking About The Material Something is Made of

 

When Talking About Relationships

 

When Talking About Where an event is happening

 

When Talking About Someone’s Religion

 

When Talking About Someone’s Profession or Occupation

 

When Talking About Someone’s Nationality

 

When Talking About Someone’s Place of Origin

 

 

 

Ser vs Estar Conjugation Chart:

 

Ser Conjugation Chart: (To be) – Irregular Verb

 

 

Singular:

 

Yo soy — I am

Tú eres — You are

El / Ella es — He / She is

 

 

Plural:

 

Nosotros somos — We are

Ustedes son — You are

Ellos / Ellas son — They are

 

 

 

When to use the Verb “Estar”

 

Estar is used to talk about non-permanent or non-essential characteristics related to the subject of a sentence.

It is used to describe how or where something is.

 

Ser is also used …

 

When Talking About Locations

 

When Talking About Ongoing Actions

 

When Using Adjectives to describe how something is (temporarily)

 

 

 

Ser vs Estar Conjugation Chart:

 

Estar Conjugation Chart (To be) – Irregular Verb

 

 

Singular:

Yo estoy —————— I am

Tú estás ————– You are

El / Ella está——— He/She is

 

Plural:

Nosotros estamos — We are

Ustedes están ——- You are

Ellos / Ellas están —They are

 

 

 

Let’s look at some examples with the verb Ser:

 

 

El gato es blanco – the cat is white

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - white cat

 

 

El gato es negro – the cat is black

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - black ca

 

 

In the previous two examples about cats, we are talking about a permanent characteristic about a cat, its color.

 

A cat is not white in the morning and black in the afternoon, it is either black or white.

 

That is why we use the verb Ser.

 

 

 

El perro es grande – the dog is big

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - big dog

 

 

El perro es pequeño – the dog is small

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - small dog

 

 

It is a similar case with the previous two sentences. The size of the dog is an essential characteristic of the animal.

 

A dog does not wake up in the morning being small, then gets big in the afternoon and small again at night.

 

It is either big or small.

 

 

 

Let’s look at some examples with the verb Estar:

 

 

El gato está cansado – the cat is tired

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - sleeping cat

 

 

El gato está seco – the cat is dry

 

learning spanish for beginners - ser vs estar - dry cat

 

 

 

In the previous two sentences we can see how the verb Estar is used to talk about non-permanent and non-essential characteristics that may change after a relatively short period of time.

 

It is being used to talk about how or where something is.

 

 

 

Let’s look at one final example of the use of Ser vs Estar:

 

El es aburido – he is boring (what he is, he is a boring person)

 

El está aburido – he is bored (how he currently is, he is currently bored)

 

 

 

In conclusion,

 

If you are going to talk about what something is (permanent and essential characteristics) then you use the verb Ser.

 

If you’re going to talk about how or where something is (non-permanent and non-essential characteristics) then you use the verb Estar.

 

 

Final “Ser vs Estar” Tip: how do I remember which one to use?

 

That’s easy, use what you already know and make a mental association, one I like is the phonetic similarity between the verb Estar and the word for those shiny celestial bodies, Stars.

 

A star does not stay still during the night, they move, they do not hold a permanent position in the sky due to Earth’s rotation.

 

 

So, next time you are unsure of which verb you should use, between Ser vs Estar;

 

just think of a star in the sky, ESTAR in the sky, and how it has a non-permanent place during the night,

 

that will help you remember.

 

 

 

 

Do you have any questions?

Please share them in the comments section below, we want to hear from you so we can learn together.

 

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