The verbs "ser" and "estar" can be translated with "to be" in English. Below we explain how to use the two verbs.
In general it can be said that "ser" refers to "innate" characteristics, while "estar" is often used to talk about states or transitory properties. Beside of that, "estar" is also used to describe geographical positions.
"Ser" refers to "innate" or permanent characteristics.
For name, identity, origin, profession and religion the verb "ser" is used.
You can use "ser" for unchangeable properties, such as character and appearance.
For impersonal expressions you can use the verb "ser" in Spanish.
The place a person or a thing is from can be described with "ser".
With "ser" you can also talk about the material something is made of.
Time can refer to days, dates, years and the time of the day.
You can use "ser" to express results.
You can form the passive voice with "ser" + participle.
"Estar" is often used to talk about states or transitory properties.
The location of someone or something describes where it is permanently or transitory.
Exception: The location of an event/party is described using "ser", not "estar". Example: La fiesta es en mi casa. - The party is in my house.
You can use "estar" to express a temporary mood or state of a person.
"Estar" is also used to describe temporary and often subjective properties of objects.
"Estar" is used in many fixed idiomatic expressions.
To form ongoing actions you need "estar" + participle.
There are some adjectives that can be used with both "ser" and "estar" to form sentences. The meaning depends of the verb. In the following table you can find some examples:
|"ser" + adjective||translation||"estar"+ adjective||translation|
|ser inteligente||(to) be an intelligent person||estar inteligente||(to) be intelligent (special moment)|
|ser abierto/a||(to) be open-minded||estar abierto/a||(to) be open (e.g. door, window)|
|ser aburrido/a||(to) be boring||estar aburrido/a||(to) be bored|
|ser enfermo/a||(to) be chronically ill||estar enfermo/a||(to) be temporarily ill|
|ser bueno/a||(to) be good||estar bueno/a||(to) be attractive|
|ser cansado/a||(to) be a tiring person||estar cansado/a||(to) be tired|
|ser malo/a||(to) be bad||estar malo/a||(to) be ill|
|ser rico/a||(to) be rich||estar rico/a||(to) be tasty|
|ser viejo/a||(to) be old||estar viejo/a||(to) look old|
"Bien" and "mal" are only used in combination with "estar"! → "Está bien." - "It's okay."
In this lesson you learned how to use the verbs "ser" and "estar" correctly. Now test your knowledge in our free exercises.
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