Difference between "ser" and "estar" in Spanish
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- Exercise about meaning changes with "ser" and "estar" Score -/-
The verbs "ser" and "estar" can be translated with "to be" in English. Below we explain how to use the two verbs.
- 1.Distinction between "ser" and "estar"
- 1.1.Usage and examples with "ser"
- 1.1.1.Personal information
- 1.1.2.Unchangeable properties
- 1.1.3.Impersonal expressions
- 1.1.4.Ownership relations
- 1.1.5.Material (ser + de)
- 1.1.7.Numbers and prices
- 1.1.8.Passive voice
- 1.2.Usage and examples with "estar"
- 1.2.1.Geographical location
- 1.2.2.Mood/conditions of a person
- 1.2.3.Properties of objects
- 1.2.4.Idiomatic expressions
- 2.Meaning changes with "ser" and "estar"
Distinction between "ser" and "estar"
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.
Usage and examples with "ser"
"Ser" refers to "innate" or permanent characteristics.
For name, identity, origin, profession and religion the verb "ser" is used.
- Laura es alemana. - Laura is German.
- Es un actor famoso. - He is a famous actor.
You can use "ser" for unchangeable properties, such as character and appearance.
- Estos zapatos son demasiado caros. - This shoes are too expensive.
- Lena es muy guapa. - Lena is very pretty.
For impersonal expressions you can use the verb "ser" in Spanish.
- Es verdad. - It's true.
- Es necesario que estudies mucho. - It is necessary that you study a lot.
The place a person or a thing is from can be described with "ser".
- Este coche es del jefe. - This car belongs to the boss.
- El libro es tuyo. - The book is yours.
Material (ser + de)
With "ser" you can also talk about the material something is made of.
- La mesa es de madera. - The table is made of wood.
- El jarrón es de vidrio. - The vase is made of glass.
Time can refer to days, dates, years and the time of the day.
- Hoy es el 21 de enero. - Today is the 21st of January.
- Es muy tarde, ya son las dos. - It is very late, it is already two.
Numbers and prices
You can use "ser" to express results.
- Diez y cinco son quince. - Ten and five are fifteen.
- Son veinte euros. - It's twenty Euros.
You can form the passive voice with "ser" + participle.
- La comida es preparada. - The food is prepared.
- El dinero es robado. - The money is robbed.
Usage and examples with "estar"
"Estar" is often used to talk about states or transitory properties.
The location of someone or something describes where it is permanently or transitory.
- Guatemala está en Centroamérica. - Guatemala is in Central America.
- Mis zapatos negros no están aquí. - My black shoes are not here.
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.
Mood/conditions of a person
You can use "estar" to express a temporary mood or state of a person.
- Mi madre está enferma. - My mother is sick.
- Estamos muy cansados. - We are very tired.
Properties of objects
"Estar" is also used to describe temporary and often subjective properties of objects.
- El té está caliente. - The tea is hot.
- Esta chaqueta está demasiado cara. - This jacket is too expensive.
"Estar" is used in many fixed idiomatic expressions.
- Estoy a favor del viaje. - I'm in favor of the trip.
- ¿Están de acuerdo? - Do they agree?
To form ongoing actions you need "estar" + participle.
- Estoy leyendo un libro. - I am reading a book.
- Estamos trabajando. - We are working.
Meaning changes with "ser" and "estar"
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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