The Verbs “Ser” and “Estar” in Spanish

If you have started learning Spanish, by this point you already know there are two verbs that mean “to be”. Those verbs are “Ser” and “Estar”.

Here are their conjugations in present tense:

 SerEstar
yosoyestoy
eresestás
élesestá
nosotrossomosestamos
vosotrossoisestáis
ellossonestán

Learning the conjugations is easy, but here’s a trick: All persons for “Estar” contain the letter “T”, but no person for “Ser” does.

And now, the question is: When do we use “Ser” and when “Estar”? Let’s see the cases for both, with some examples.

Ser

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

Date:

Hoy es quince de abril.

Mañana es el día de mi cumpleaños.

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.

María y Laura son artistas.

Characteristics:

Characteristics are normally permanent, not temporary:

Tu sofá es rojo.

Los españoles somos simpáticos 🙂

Time:

Son las nueve de la mañana (9:00)

Es la una de la tarde (13:00)

Origin:

Where someone or something is from.

Nuestro profesor es de Colombia.

Mi amigo y yo somos americanos.

Relation:

Juan y María son novios.

Ese ordenador es de Ana.



Estar

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   (position, he is standing up).

La televisión está sobre la mesa  (location).

Madrid está en el centro de España (location).

Action:

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?

Condition:

Contrary to “Characteristics”, which was a “Ser” case, “Condition” is a “Estar” case. What’s the difference? Condition is normally temporary, not permament.

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).

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