The Verbs “Ser” and “Estar” in Spanish

In Spanish, there are two verbs that mean “to be”. Those verbs are “Ser” and “Estar”.

Here is their conjugation in present tense:


If you tend to make mistakes in their conjugation, this trick might be useful: all persons for “Estar” contain the letter “T”, but no person for “Ser” does.

Of course, the big question is: When do we use “Ser” and when “Estar”? Let’s see the typical cases for each one, with some examples.


The most common trick to use is that the initials of the “Ser” cases form the word DOCTOR (Date, Occupation, Characteristics, Time, Origin, Relation):


Hoy es quince de abril. = Today is April 15th.

Mañana es mi cumpleaños. = Tomorrow is my birthday. 


Note: For occupations we normally don’t use any article. So we don’t say “my brother is an architect”, just “my brother is architect”)

Mi hermano es arquitecto. = My brother is an architect

María y Laura son artistas. = Maria and Laura are artists


Characteristics tend to be permanent, not temporary:

Tu sofá es rojo. = Your sofa is red

Los españoles somos simpáticos = We spaniards are nice people

Time of day:

Son las nueve de la mañana  = It’s 9 a.m.

Es la una de la tarde = It’s 1 p.m.


Where someone or something is from.

Nuestro profesor es de Colombia. = Our teacher is from Colombia

Mi amigo y yo somos americanos. = My friend and I are americans


Juan y María son novios. = Juan and Maria are dating

Ese ordenador es de Ana. = That computer is Ana’s


The most common trick to use is that the the initials of the “Estar” cases form the word PLACE (Position, Location, Action, Condition, Emotion):

Position and Location:

Both where someone or something is, and its position.

El alumno está de pie = The pupil is standing up.(position).

La televisión está sobre la mesa = The TV is on the table. (location).

Madrid está en el centro de España = Madrid is in the center of Spain. (location). 


Combining “estar” with the gerund of a verb, you form the tense “presente continuo”.

Estoy estudiando para el examen = I am studying for the test.

¿Estáis escuchándome? = Are you listening to me?


Conditions tend to be temporary, not permanent.

La radio está rota = The radio is broken.

Estoy enfermo = I am sick.


Much like “Condition”, “Emotion” is also temporary.

Estoy muy contento = I’m very happy/satisfied (at the moment).

Alejandro está enfadado con sus amigos = Alejandro is angry with his friends (at the moment).


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