Spanish SER vs ESTAR – Learn to Choose and Practice!

Spanish Verbs Ser Vs Estar, Learn to Choose and Practice with Exercises

Welcome to our grammar lesson about “ser” vs “estar”, where we will learn and practice how to choose between these two Spanish verbs.

Both “ser” and “estar” mean “to be”. For that reason, one of the challenges for Spanish students is learning to choose between “ser” and “estar” depending on the sentence.

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

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

Conjugations of “ser” and “estar” in Present Tense

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

 serestar
yosoyestoy
eresestás
élesestá
nosotrossomosestamos
vosotrossoisestáis
ellossonestán


Uses of “ser”

In general, think of “ser” as the verb for permanent stuff (stuff that doesn’t change).

That idea is a good start, but it doesn’t always work. The Spanish student needs to 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 see examples of each case:

Date

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

Mañana es mi cumpleaños.
Tomorrow is my birthday.


Occupation

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 “my brother is an architect”, just “my brother is architect”:


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 the 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

Relations between people and/or things:

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

Ese ordenador es de Ana.
That computer belongs to Ana.


Uses of “estar”

In general, think of “estar” as the verb for temporary stuff (stuff that changes), and also for location.

But again, that idea is not 100% accurate in every case. The Spanish student needs to 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 example sentences of each case:

Position, Location

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

We use “estar” even when the location is permanent:

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 we use “estar”, even if it’s permanent)


Action

Combining “estar” with the Gerundio of a given verb, we form a tense called Present Progressive, to express what’s going on:

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

¿Estáis jugando?
Are you guys playing?


Condition

Condition tends 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.

Practice Spanish “ser” vs “estar”

Quiz

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

Exercise 1

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

1. Mi casa _______ (es / está) en el Barrio de las Flores.
2. Las mesas _______ (son / están) grandes.
3. ¿Qué _______ (eres / estás) haciendo, Pablo?
4. Mañana _______ (es / está) 20 de abril.
5. Nosotros _______ (somos / estamos) buscando una farmacia.
6. La habitación _______ (es / está) sucia hoy.
7. Yo ______ (soy / estoy) Juan.
8. Nuestro coche (es / está) pequeño.
9. Mis padres (son / están) profesores.

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


Exercise 2

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

1. Nosotros _______ (somos / estamos) cansados.
2. El Cairo _______ (es / está) en Egipto.
3. Las raquetas _______ (son / están) de Luis.
4. Los niños _______ (son / están) jugando al fútbol.
5. Hoy _______ (es / está) diez de junio.
6. La nueva alumna _______ (es / está) de Francia.
7. Vosotros _______ (sois / estáis) tumbados.
8. Yo ______ (soy / estoy) entusiasmado con la fiesta de mañana.
9. Ahora ______ (son / están) las diez de la noche.

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