Spanish verbs SER and ESTAR are confusing for beginning Spanish students because both mean “to be” in English. If you want to learn the most important difference between these two verbs —the most used in Spanish—, keep reading this article.
The Spanish verb SER is used to indicate permanent states whereas the verb ESTAR is used for a temporary state and location. However, there are many other uses:
To describe people or things
The Spanish verb Ser is used for physical descriptions or personality traits:
El señor es alto y delgado - The man is tall and thin
Los niños son divertidos - The children are fun
El maestro es inteligente - The teacher is intelligent
You can also use Ser to describe things in the same way you would describe a person:
El carro es nuevo - The car is new
La casa es grande - The house is big
Nationality or origin
The verb Ser is also used to describe where someone is from and their nationality:
¿De dónde eres? - Where are you from?
Yo soy de México y tú eres de Colombia - I’m from Mexico and you are from Colombia
¿De dónde son ellos? - Where are they from?
Alejandro es de España y Jean es de Francia - Alejandro is from Spain and Jean is from France
Ocupation or profession
When you ask someone what they do for a living, you can ask “¿A qué te dedicas?,” and you’ll receive the reply “Soy + (their job)”.
María es doctora - María is a doctor
Juan es pintor - Juan is a painter
The verb Ser is used to express the hour, day, and date:
¿Qué hora es? - What time is it?
Son las tres pm - It’s 3 pm
¿Qué día es hoy? - What day is it today?
Hoy es viernes - Today is Friday
¿Qué fecha es hoy? - What's the date today?
Es el 15 de noviembre - It’s November 15
The verb Ser is used to express the relationship of one person to another:
¿Quiénes son ellos? - Who are they?
El señor es mi papá y ellos son mis hermanos - That man is my father and they are my brothers
Use the verb Ser to indicate possession or ownership:
El libro es mío - The book is mine
Es mi carro - It is my car
The Spanish verb Estar is used to describe emotions and someone’s mood, and implies that this state might be temporary. For example, in “está triste” (he/she is sad), the person is sad now but won’t always be sad.
¿Cómo estás? - How are you?
Yo estoy muy feliz - I’m very happy
Tú estás emocionado - You are excited
The verb Estar is also used to describe physical condition or illnesses:
¿Cómo está ella? - How is she?
Sandra está embarazada - Sandra is pregnant
Pedro está enfermo - Pedro is sick
When you hear the phrase “¿Dónde está…?” you need to reply using Estar.
¿Dónde están ellos? - Where are they?
Los alumnos están en la escuela - The students are in the school
¿Dónde está ella? - Where is she?
Ana está en el supermercado - Ana is at the supermarket
¿Dónde está el libro? - Where is the book?
El libro está sobre la mesa - The book is on the table
¿Dónde estás tú? - Where are you?
Yo estoy en Venezuela - I’m in Venezuela
Let's practice. Write below two sentences using the Spanish verbs SER and ESTAR: