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Difference between "Ser" and "Estar".

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

A girl confused between "ser" and "estar"
Ser o Estar

We all remember Shakespeare's question: To be or not to be? However, we are pretty sure everyone learning Spanish as a foreign language, has an even more difficult question: is "To be" Ser or Estar?

One of the first hurdles Spanish learners encounter is understanding when to use "ser" and "estar." These two verbs both translate to "to be" in English, but they have distinct meanings and are used in different contexts.

In this blog post, we'll explore the main differences between "ser" and "estar" in the Spanish language. Stay with us until the end, and get the free Pdf with exercises and key answers!

Ser: The Permanent Essence

"Ser" is a verb that's typically used to express essential or permanent qualities. These characteristics are innate and enduring, defining who or what something is at its core. Here are 5 common situations where "ser" is the appropriate choice:

1.Identity: "Ser" is used to express one's identity or nationality. For example, "Soy Paul" (I'm Paul), "Soy inglés" (I am English). 2.Professions: When talking about one's profession or occupation, "ser" is the right choice. "Él es médico" (He is a doctor). Remember in Spanish the “a” disappears. 3.Origin: Use "ser" to describe the origin of something. "La paella es de Valencia" (Paella is from Valencia).

4.Time: To tell the time, “Ser" is used. "Es la una" (It's one o'clock).”Son las tres y media” (It’s half past three). 5.Personality: When expressing inherent personality or physical traits, "ser" is the way to go. "Ella es simpática" (She is nice). “Él es alto” (He is tall).

Estar: The Temporary State

"Estar," on the other hand, is employed to describe temporary states or conditions. These states are changeable and can vary over time. Here are some instances where "estar" is the correct choice:

  1. Location: Use "estar" to indicate the location of people or objects. "Estoy en casa" (I am at home).“Madrid está en España” (Madrid is in Spain).

  2. Emotions: When describing emotions or feelings, "estar" is the suitable verb. "Estoy contenta" (I am happy). “Estoy ocupada” (I’m busy).

  3. Health: To convey one's physical or emotional state of health, use "estar." "Estoy enfermo" (I am sick). ”Estoy cansado” (I’m tired).

  4. Temporary Conditions: Any temporary condition, such as physical appearance and some weather conditions, are expressed with "estar." "Está nublado" (It's cloudy). “Estás guapa” (You look good!)

  5. Ongoing Actions: In the progressive tense, "estar" is used to describe ongoing actions. "Estoy estudiando" (I am studying). “Estoy trabajando” (I’m working)

Here is a great tip to remember when to use "estar" with some emotions or temporary states:

The Grey Area: Ser vs. Estar

While "ser" and "estar" have distinct uses, there are situations where the choice between the two is not as clear-cut.

Some words, such as "aburrido" (boring) or "listo" (clever), can change their meaning depending on whether "ser" or "estar" is used.

For example, "Eres aburrido" means "You are boring" (an inherent characteristic), while "Estás aburrido" means "You are bored" (a temporary state).

There are many other examples that you will find in the extensive Pdf we have carefully crafted for those who want to get proficient and practice with ser and estar. It has a ser conjugation chart as well as, lots of examples, exercises and key answers. Click on the link below.

To sum up, by mastering the distinctions between "ser" and "estar", you'll be well on your way to speaking Spanish with greater fluency and precision.

So, now it's time to practise with the free Pdf you can get below by subscribing to our mailing list. It contains activities and the key answers to challenge what you've learned throughout this article. Good luck! ¡Buena suerte!

Don’t forget to follow us on Tiktok and Instagram for more examples and free content every week!

Text: Paula Ruiz

Editing: Paula Ruiz

Pictures: Wix, Paula Ruiz

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