The Verbs “Ser” and “Estar” in Spanish

In Spanish, there are 2 verbs that mean “to be”. Those verbs are “Ser” and “Estar”.

This is their conjugation in Present Tense:

 SerEstar
yosoyestoy
eresestás
élesestá
nosotrossomosestamos
vosotrossoisestáis
ellossonestán

Naturally, the big question for the Spanish learner is: When do we use “Ser” and when do we use “Estar”?

In this post, we will go through the most typical cases for each Verb, to help you choose correctly.





Ser

The most common trick to remember the «Ser» cases is that their initials make the word «DOCTOR»

  • Date
  • Occupation
  • Characteristic
  • Time
  • Origin
  • Relation


Date:

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

Mañana es mi cumpleaños. = Tomorrow is my birthday. 


Occupation:

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.


Characteristic:

Characteristics tend to be permanent, not temporary:

Tu sofá es rojo. = Your sofa is red.

Los españoles son simpáticos. = 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.


Origin:

Telling 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.


Relation:

Juan y María son novios. = Juan and Maria are a couple.

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




Estar

The most common trick to remember the «Ser» cases is that their initials make the word «PLACE»:

  • Position
  • Location
  • Action
  • Condition
  • Emotion


Position, Location:

Telling where someone or something is, as well and its position.

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

Estamos sentados. = We are sitting. (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)


Action

Combining “estar” with the gerundio of a verb, you form the tense called Present Progressive.

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

¿Estáis escuchándome? = Are you listening to me?


Condition:

Conditions tend to be temporary, not permanent.

La radio está rota = The radio is broken.

Estoy enfermo = I am sick.


Emotion:

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).