How to Use Ser and Estar
If you’re a native English speaker you might be having trouble when and how to use the verbs ser and estar. Don’t worry here at Easy Linguista we are going to make your lives a bit easier.
They represent 2 of the most important verbs in the Spanish language so we want to give special attention to it so that you can become a pro at using it.
It’s important to remember that the verbs “ser” and “estar” are irregular verbs so they don’t follow the normal and easy flowing conjugations of other verbs.
For us English speakers the verb to be is easy (I am, you are, he/she is etc) as there is only 1 form. However in Spanish there are 2 – namely ser and estar.
Difference between Ser and Estar
In it’s simplistic form the verb “ser” is used for more permanent/enduring situations.
E.g. To say I am a man I would use the verb “ser” – Yo soy hombre. This is because it is a permanent characteristic of me.
The verb “estar” is used for temporary/changing usually due to a change as a result of action.
E.g. To say I am angry I would use the verb “estar” – Yo estoy enojado. This is because it is a temporary emotional state that I am in because of something that happened to me.
There are however exceptions (as always when it comes to languages) but for the most part this general rule will apply.
Conjugations of Ser and Estar
Let’s start off with “ser”.
|Yo soy||I am|
|Tú eres||You are|
|Él/Ella/Usted es||He/She/You are|
|Nosotros/Nosotras somos||We are|
|Vosotros/Vosotras sois||You all are|
|Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes son||You all are|
Next up is “estar”.
|Yo estoy||I am|
|Tú estás||You are|
|Él/Ella/Usted está||He/She/You are|
|Nosotros/Nosotras estamos||We are|
|Vosotros/Vosotras estáis||You all are|
|Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes están||You all are|
How to use Ser and Estar
Now we are going to dive into the when and how to use the verbs ser and estar. This will be a more comprehensive look at the situations which are most appropriate.
As well as those pesky exceptions.
The use of ser
There are a variety of situations in which the use of ser would occur. I will list them below with a brief description as to the reasoning for it as well.
Date and Time
When we say what the date or time is we are referring to a moment in time and thus can be considered enduring.
Therefore we would use the verb ser.
E.g. Son las seis de la tarde
Identification of something
If you want to inform someone what an object is you would use the verb ser.
E.g. Esta es una palabra which translates to This is a word.
Origin and Nationality
Where you are born and origin cannot be denied. Just because we live in a more integrated and globalised world does not change this.
To describe your nationality you would use the verb ser.
You can say “Yo soy de Sudáfrica” – I am from South Africa but if I was a different nationality I would say “Yo soy frances” – I am French.
These are attributes which cannot be changed by the individual and can be viewed as going with that individual wherever they go.
Characteristics such as being short or having your hair colour a certain colour. Even though these can be changed, it generally takes place over a period of time and therefore can be considered enduring.
If something belongs to you it means that nobody can take it from you (in theory). Even up to the point that you die, those possessions will remain yours.
E.g. La taza es mío. [The cup is mine]
Even though you can change your career over time, generally this does not take place over time and is considered “permanent”.
So if someone asks you “Cual es tu profesion” you can answer “Yo soy artista”
There are 2 types of relationships that we will use the verb ser for.
We will use it for relationships with family members (padre, madre etc). This will also apply to those relationships which we have selected such as your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend.
Even though these relationships can be up and down, for the most part they are enduring.
When we are talking about a location we use the verb estar for both short-term and permanent stays.
No explanation here – just one of those funny rules that you have to memorise.
As we all know, everyone has mood swings. Whether you get into an argument with your girlfriend or a disagreement with a co-worker.
These moods are all fleeting.
It’s a reflection of how we are feeling in the moment and thus should be viewed as short-term.
We use the verb estar to state this.
This is not to be confused with a physical characteristic.
Physicality refers to how you are feeling in this moment – en este momento.
Think about when someone asks you how you are today?
You would respond.
Estoy muy bien.
Results of Action
Usually when you are performing an action in the present moment [en este momento] you would always use the verb estar to accompany what you are doing.
Estoy escribiendo – I am writing.
There are a couple of grey areas or funnies when it comes to ser and estar so I’m going to give you a quick breakdown of those ones.
From General to Particular
If you enjoy chicken [like me] then you would describe it as the best food in the world.
For this you would use the verb – this is because you are declaring it as truth. Therefore you are referring to it as being in a permanent state.
Pollo es muy delicioso
However if you are referring to a particular piece of chicken you had in a restaurant then you would use the verb estar to declare that the chicken you ate was delicious.
Este pollo está muy delicioso
If something is in it’s natural state – like your hair colour then you would use the verb ser as this is a permanent state.
However if it is an unnatural state, such as dirty feet, you would use the ver estar.
Not too bad for those funny examples.
Conclusion – How to Use Ser and Estar
This is a comprehensive guide as to when and how to use the verbs ser and estar.
As mentioned above these words are used a lot in the Spanish language so mastering it as early as possible would be in your best interest.
Locals will always forgive you if you slip up (that’s part of the fun of learning a language) but prevention is better than cure.
Espero que hayas disfrutado!