“Ser” vs. “Estar” PRACTICE – Spanish Grammar

Welcome to our grammar lesson on how to choose between the verbs ser and estar in Spanish.

Both “ser” and “estar” mean “to be”. But we use them in different types of sentences.

Two sentences: one with "ser" and one with "estar"
Two sentences: one with “ser” and one with “estar”

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to choose between “ser” and “estar” in sentences.

At the end you’ll find a Quiz and Exercises for practice. Let’s do it!

Conjugations in Present Tense

Before we explain the difference between “ser” and “estar”, let’s review their conjugations in Present Tense:


Uses of “ser”

ser means “to be”, and in general we use it for permanent things (things that don’t change).

That idea is a good start, but it doesn’t always work. The student should learn the most frequent uses of “ser”, one by one.

There is a trick to remember the uses of “ser” – Their initials make the word DOCTOR:

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

Let’s read examples of each use:


Hoy es quince de abril.
Today is April 15.

Mañana es mi cumpleaños.
Tomorrow is my birthday.


Mi hermano es arquitecto.
My brother is an architect.

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

Note: For occupations, we don’t use any article after ser. We don’t say “mi hermano es un arquitecto”, but “mi hermano es arquitecto”.


Characteristics tend to be permanent, not temporary:

Tu sofá es rojo.
Your sofa is red.

Los españoles son simpáticos.
Spaniards are nice.

Time of the day

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

Es la una de la tarde.
It’s 1 p.m.


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.


Relations between people and/or things:

Juan y María son primos.
Juan and Maria are cousins.

El ordenador es de Ana.
The computer belongs to Ana.

Uses of “estar”

estar also means “to be”, but in general we use it for temporary things (things that change), and also to express location.

That idea is a good start, but it doesn’t always work. The student should learn the most frequent uses of “estar”, one by one.

The trick for the uses of “estar” – Their initials make the word PLACE:

  • Position
  • Location
  • Action
  • Condition
  • Emotion

Let’s read examples of each use:

Position, Location

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

We use estar even when the position or location is permanent:

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

Nosotros 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, so we use “estar” even though it’s permanent)


By combining estar with the Gerundio of a verb, we form a tense called Present Progressive to express what’s going on:

Yo estoy estudiando para el examen.
I am studying for the test.

¿Estáis jugando?
Are you guys playing?


Conditions tend to be temporary, not permanent:

La radio está rota.
The radio is broken.

Estoy enfermo.
I am sick.


Much like conditions, emotions are also temporary:

Yo estoy muy contento.
I’m very happy/satisfied (at the moment).

Alejandro está enfadado con sus amigos.
Alejandro is angry with his friends.



Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about “ser” vs “estar”:

Exercise 1

Complete the conjugations of “ser” and “estar” in Present Tense with the missing forms:

yosoy...... (4)
...... (1)estás
éles...... (5)
nosotros...... (2)estamos
vosotrossois...... (6)
ellos...... (3)están

1) eres
2) somos
3) son
4) estoy
5) está
6) estáis

Exercise 2

In the following sentences, fill the gaps choosing between the verbs “ser” and “estar” shown in brackets:

1) Mi casa ___ (es / está) en este barrio.
My house is in this neighborhood.

2) Las mesas ___ (son / están) grandes.
The tables are big.

3) ¿Qué ___ (eres / estás) haciendo, Carmen?
What are you doing, Carmen?

4) Mañana ___ (es / está) 20 de abril.
Tomorrow is April 20th.

5) Nosotros ___ (somos / estamos) buscando una farmacia.
We are looking for a pharmacy.

6) La habitación ___ (es / está) sucia hoy.
The room is dirty today.

7) Yo ___ (soy / estoy) Juan.
I am Juan.

8) Nuestro coche ___ (es / está) pequeño.
Our car is small.

9) Mis padres ___ (son / están) profesores.
My parents are teachers.

1) está
2) son
3) estás
4) es
5) estamos
6) está
7) soy
8) es
9) son

Exercise 3

In the following sentences, fill the gaps choosing between the verbs “ser” and “estar” in brackets:

1) Nosotros ___ (somos / estamos) cansados.
We are tired.

2) La Habana ___ (es / está) en Cuba.
Havana is in Cuba.

3) Las raquetas ___ (son / están) de Luis.
The rackets belong to Luis.

4) Los niños ___ (son / están) jugando al fútbol.
The children are playing soccer.

5) Hoy ___ (es / está) 10 de junio.
Today is June 10.

6) La nueva alumna ___ (es / está) de México.
The new student is from Mexico.

7) Vosotros ___ (sois / estáis) tumbados.
You guys are lying down.

8) Yo ___ (soy / estoy) entusiasmado con la fiesta.
I am excited about the party.

9) Ahora ___ (son / están) las diez de la noche.
It is now ten at night.

1) estamos
2) está
3) son
4) están
5) es
6) es
7) estáis
8) estoy
9) son

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