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:
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.
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 are normally permanent, not temporary:
Tu sofá es rojo. = Your sofa is red
Los españoles somos simpáticos = We spaniards are nice people
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?
Contrary to “Characteristics”, which was a “Ser” case, “Condition” is a “Estar” case. What’s the difference? Condition is normally 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).