Ser or Estar: That Is the Question (Part I)

by Vanessa Johnson on Wednesday, July 24, 2019

One of the classic questions we’re often asked by our Spanish students is when to use ser and when to use estar. In today’s post, we’ll try to answer the main questions about ser vs. estar by looking at each verb separately to see how it’s used. In a future post, we will go over cases in which we can choose to use either ser or estar and see how the meaning of the sentence changes. Click here to read this post in Spanish. Let’s get into it!

We use ser in the following situations:

To identify:

  • Our identity: “Soy Mandi” (I am Mandi)
  • Our nationality: “Soy china/soy de China” (I am Chinese/I’m from China)
  • Our profession or hobby: “Soy estudiante/Soy abogado/Soy deportista” (I am a student/I am a lawyer/I am an athlete)
  • Our beliefs: “Soy musulmán/judío/católico/budista/…” (I am Muslim/Jewish/Catholic/Buddhist/etc.)

To describe:

  • Our physical characteristics: “Soy alto/bajo/delgado/grueso/fuerte…” (I am tall/short/thin/heavy/strong/etc.)
  • Our abilities: “Soy inteligente/listo/tonto/...” (I am intelligent/smart/dumb/etc.)
  • Our personality: “Soy alegre/abierto/extrovertido/tímido/…” (I am cheerful/receptive/extroverted/shy/etc.)
  • Our relationships: “Sophie es mi hermana/Soy primo de Tomoyo/Soy novia de Giovanni” (Sophie is my sister/I am Tomoyo’s cousin/I am Giovanni’s girlfriend)
  • The material something is made of: “La mesa es de madera/metal/plástico…” (The table is made of wood/metal/plastic/etc.)

To locate events:

  • In a place: “El concierto es en el estadio de fútbol” (The concert is in the soccer stadium)
  • On a specific date: “La clase sobre ser y estar es el martes/en abril/la semana próxima…” (The class about ser and estar is on Tuesday/in April/next week/etc.)
  • In a period of time: “Las rebajas son en primavera/verano/otoño/invierno” (The sales are in spring/summer/fall/winter)
  • At a specific time: “La conferencia es a la una de la tarde” (The conference is at 1 p.m.)

To talk about the price of something when the cost is stable: ¿Cuánto es el café? Es 1,20€ (How much is the coffee? It is €1.20)

We use estar in the following contexts:

To describe:

  • Our mood: Hoy estoy contento porque he aprobado el DELE (Today I am happy because I passed the DELE exam)
  • Our physical characteristics that can change: “Zoe ha ido a la playa y ahora está muy morena”/Katie ha hecho dieta y ahora está más delgada” (Zoe went to the beach and now she is very tan/Katie has been dieting and now she is thinner)
  • Our marital status: “Tatiana está casada/soltera/divorciada” (Tatiana is married/single/divorced)
  • The way in which something has been made/built: “El anillo está hecho en plata/con oro/a mano” (The ring is made in silver/with gold/by hand)

To locate physical spaces: “Nuestra escuela de español en Sevilla está en el centro de la ciudad, muy cerca del mercado” (Our Spanish school in Seville is downtown, very close to the market)

When using the preposition a or en to indicate:

  • A date: “Estamos a 24 de julio del 2019” (Today is July 24, 2019)
  • A season: “Estamos en primavera/verano/otoño/invierno” (We are in spring/summer/fall/winter)

To talk about the price of something when the value is not stable: “La gasolina está a casi cinco euros el litro”/Los tomates están a unos cuatro euros el kilo” (Gas is at almost five euros a liter/Tomatoes are at about four euros a kilo)

Esperamos que estéis contentos con la explicación, aunque como sois muy listos con un poco de práctica no vais a tener ningún problema para entenderla. (We hope you are happy with the explanation, although since you are very smart, with a bit of practice you will have no problem understanding it.)

A special thanks to Lucas, our Director of Studies in Seville, for this detailed explanation of when to use ser vs. estar.


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Comments

1 » Dale Battson (on Thursday, August 15, 2019) said:

Quisiera entretenerles con la idea de que se usa
Ser para la naturaleza innata de algo o alguien y Estar para las condiciones causadas por fuerzas exteriores. Explica mucho sobre el tema.