Ser or Estar, That Is the Question (Part II)

by Vanessa Johnson on Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Last week, we explained when to use ser and when to use estar. Today, we’ll go over some words you can use with both ser and estar. Careful — this doesn’t mean that you can use ser and estar indiscriminately. Some words change their meaning depending on which verb you choose.

Read on to learn how you can change the meaning of a sentence just by changing ser to estar, or click here to read this post in Spanish.

BUENO

We use SER to express:

We use ESTAR to express:

  • Someone’s good behavior.

Mi niño es muy bueno. Nunca hace travesuras.

(My child is very good. He never gets into mischief.)

  • The quality of something or someone.

Mi profesor de español es muy bueno. Explica muy bien.

(My Spanish teacher is very good. He explains things very well.)

Las naranjas son muy buenas para la salud.

(Oranges are very good for your health.)

  • When somebody is healthy after having been sick.

Mi niño ha estado resfriado toda la semana pero ahora ya está bueno.

(My child had a cold all week, but now he is fine.)

  • That somebody is physically attractive.

Mi profesor de español está muy bueno. Se nota que va al gimnasio.

(My Spanish teacher is good-looking. You can tell he goes to the gym.)

  • That a food or drink tastes good.

Estas naranjas están muy buenas. ¿Dónde las has comprado?

(These oranges are very good. Where did you buy them?)

MALO

We use SER to express:

We use ESTAR to express:

  • Someone’s bad behavior.

Mi niño es muy malo. Está todo el día haciendo travesuras.

(My child is very bad. He spends all day getting into mischief.)

  • The bad quality of something or someone.

Mi profesor de español es muy malo. No explica nada bien.

(My Spanish teacher is very bad. He doesn’t explain things well at all.)

Las naranjas no son malas para la salud.

(Oranges are not bad for your health.)

  • That someone is sick.

Mi niño está malo. Creo que tiene un resfriado.

(My child is sick. I think he has a cold.)

  • The bad flavor of a food or drink.

Estas naranjas están muy malas. ¿Dónde las has comprado?

(These oranges are very bad. Where did you buy them?)

LISTO

We use SER to express:

We use ESTAR to express:

  • Intelligence.

Yolanda es muy lista. Ha estudiado tres carreras.

(Yolanda is very intelligent. She has earned three degrees.)

  • That someone or something is ready.

No podemos irnos todavía. Yolanda no está lista.

(We can’t leave yet. Yolanda is not ready.)

RICO

We use SER to express:

We use ESTAR to express:

  • That someone has a lot of money.

Su padre es muy rico. Tiene una empresa muy importante.

(His/her dad is very rich. He has a very important business.)

  • The good flavor of a food or drink.

Estas naranjas están muy ricas. ¿Dónde las has comprado?

(These oranges are delicious. Where did you buy them?

NEGRO

We use SER to express:

We use ESTAR to express:

The color.

Mi gato es negro y yo no creo que dé mala suerte.

(My cat is black and I don’t think he brings bad luck.)

  • That someone is angry/fed up.

Soy el único que hace algo en esta casa. Ya estoy negro.

(I’m the only one who does anything in this house. I am fed up.

  • That someone is very tan after spending time in the sun.

¡Estás negra! ¿Cuándo has ido a la playa?

(You are so tan! When did you go to beach?)

VERDE

We use SER to express:

We use ESTAR to express:

  • The color.

Mi camiseta no es azul, es verde. A lo mejor eres daltónico.

(My t-shirt isn’t blue, it is green. Maybe you’re color-blind.

  • Someone’s lack of experience in something.

No podemos darte el diploma de español avanzado. Todavía estás muy verde. Tienes que estudiar más.

(We can’t give you the advanced Spanish diploma. You are still very green. You have to study more.)

As you can see, the meaning can change quite a bit if you mix up ser and estar. If you don’t pay attention, you might really confuse whoever you’re talking to! Sign up for one of our Spanish courses in Spain and Latin America and get all the ser and estar practice you need!

In the meantime, stay tuned for next week, when we’ll be posting the third and final part of our online guide to differences between ser and estar.


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