Spanish SER vs ESTAR – The Ultimate Guide

Spanish Ser Vs Estar

Welcome to our grammar lesson about “Ser” vs “Estar” in Spanish.

Both verbs “Ser” and “Estar” mean “to be”. That’s why one of the challenges for Spanish students is learning to choose between “Ser” and “Estar” when forming sentences.

In this lesson, we will learn the most typical cases where we use “ser” and the most typical cases where we use “estar”, providing example sentences.

At the end you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.

1. Conjugations of “Ser” vs “Estar” in Present Tense

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

Personserestar
yosoyestoy
eresestás
élesestá
nosotrossomosestamos
vosotrossoisestáis
ellossonestán


2. Uses of “Ser”

In general, it’s good to think of “Ser” as the verb for permanent stuff (stuff that doesn’t change).

However, that idea is not valid in some cases. The Spanish student should learn the most important uses of “Ser”, one by one.

And there is a trick to remember the uses of “Ser”! Their initials make the word “DOCTOR”

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

Let’s see example sentences of each use:

Date:

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

Mañana es mi cumpleaños.
Tomorrow is my birthday.

Occupation:

Note: For occupations, we don’t use any article. That means we don’t say “my brother is an architect”, but 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 belongs to Ana.


3. Uses of “Estar”

In general, it’s good to think of “Estar” as the verb for temporary stuff (stuff that can change), and also for location.

But again, that idea is not valid in some cases. The Spanish student should learn the most important uses of “Estar”, one by one.

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

  • Position
  • Location
  • Action
  • Condition
  • Emotion

Example sentences of each use:

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, so even if it is permanent, we use “estar”)

Action:

Combining “estar” with the Gerundio of a given verb, we construct the tense called Present Progressive to express an ongoing action.

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

¿Estáis jugando?
Are you guys playing?

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).

4. Practice “Ser” vs “Estar”

Quiz

Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about “Ser” vs “Estar”!:

Exercise

In the following conversation between two friends, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper, choosing between the options in brackets. Then check the solutions below:

– Hola Fátima, ¿qué _____ 1.(eres / estás) haciendo?

_____ 2.(Soy / Estoy) buscando un regalo para mi hermano. Mañana _____ 3.(es / está) cinco de abril, su cumpleaños.

– ¿A qué hora _____ 4. (es / está) la fiesta?

_____ 5.(Es / Está) a las ocho de la tarde en su piso.

– ¿En qué parte de la ciudad vive tu hermano?

– Su piso _____ 6.(es / está) en el Barrio de las Flores. _____ 7.(Es / Está) un piso bastante grande, ideal para hacer fiestas.

Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = estás, 2 = Estoy, 3 = es, 4 = es, 5 = Es, 6 = está, 7 = Es