Basic Spanish Course

Ser and Estar in Spanish: their use and the difference between them: CLASS 6

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Transcript of class:

It’s my personal belief that the greatest beer in the world is Catalan: Estrella Damm… and the second greatest beer in the world is Mexican: Corona (though, a little over priced). The first is intensely rich and flavoursome while the second is light and thirst-quenching. What’s that got to do with the verb ‘to be’? Well, not a lot…other than the confusion of having two separate verbs to say ‘I am, you are, he is etc.’ will probably drive you to drink…but at least it will be a damn fine drink like Estrella Damm rather than that glorified cat’s piss they drink in the continental United states.

Ok, let’s go over the verb; but instead of including the pronouns – I/you/he etc… (which, as already stated, are not usually necessary) let’s put them to one side so you get accustomed to translating ‘I am’ as ‘soy’ instead of ‘yo soy’.

Estar & Ser __ To be

Estoy _____ soy ______I am
Estás _____ eres _____You are
Está ______ es ______ He is, she is, (it is – depends on the context)
Estamos __ somos ___We are
Estáis ____ sois______ You are (plural)
Están ____ son ______ They are

When do I use ‘ser’ and when do I use ‘estar’?

When you do your PHD in Spanish you can examine the microscopic details of ‘ser’ and ‘estar’. For now, though, you only need to know the following rules (but remember that sometimes they are not 100% scientific rules…there are always exceptions.)



The general difference

The most important difference between these two verbs can be explained with reference to a girl who lives in Castelldefels called Nadia. She works in a supermarket where the employees have to wear a green striped shirt that is like an international violation of style laws. But, even like that …she’s beautiful. However, if you see her in a bar down the beach on a Friday night – all glammed up – she looks incredibly beautiful.

Now, imagine we’re having a drink on Monday and you ask me about Nadia. I’m going to say something like: “Nadia es guapa – Nadia is beautiful” Then on Friday we see her looking particularly hot and I say, “Nadia esta guapa – Nadia is beautiful.”

Now, in both cases we are commenting on how beautiful Nadia is but in Spanish I use ‘ser’ on Monday and ‘estar’ on the weekend. Why? Because on Monday we were talking about her being beautiful in general whereas on Friday I was saying that she looked particularly beautiful at that moment. The fundamental (but not exclusive) difference between ser and estar is, therefore, that one is for permanent qualities and the other for temporary (but don’t forget…there’s always exceptions.)

Another good example is the difference between ‘boring’ and ‘bored.’ In English we have two adjectives: one means that you are a tedious motherfucker, the other means that you are not having any fun and that time is moving very slow. In Spanish, however, it’s not necessary to have two separate words: we distinguish the two states with ‘ser’ and ‘estar’. Therefore, if someone is a tedious motherfucker you say…

 __ El es aburrido. (with ‘ser’)

And if someone is not having any fun you say…

 __ El esta aburrido (with ‘estar’)

Okay, now let’s run through a more conventional list of the uses of ser and estar.

You use ‘ser’ in the following situations…


1.SER: Descriptions of fundamental qualities of a person or thing that are more or less permanent.

The most important examples are names, religions, physical descriptions and nationality.

 __ Miriam es musulman.
 __ Miriam is a muslim.

 __ Soy Juan.
 __ I am Yuan.

 __ Eres bajo, gordo y feo.
 __ You’re short, fat and ugly.

 __ Miriam es inglés.
 __ Miriam is English.


2. SER: Jobs

 __ Soy profesor de sexo.
 __ I am a sex teacher (first class is free!)

 __ Ellas son traficantes.
 __ They are drug dealers.

 __ Mi padre es médico.
 __ My father is a doctor.

Remember that when we talk about jobs in Spanish we don’t use the indefinite article ‘a’. Therefore, you don’t literally say ‘my father is a doctor’ you say ‘my father is doctor.’

3. SER: Personality traits

 __ Tu ex-mujer es estúpida.
 __ Your ex-wife is stupid.

 __ Mi mujer es muy inteligente.
 __ My wife is very intelligent.

  1. SER: Origin

    We use ‘ser’ when we talk about the place someone or something is from. Also, when we talk about the material something is made from.

     __ Somos de España.
     __ We’re from Spain.

     __ Esta salsa es de México.
     __ This sauce is from Mexico.
     __ El anillo es de plata.
     __ The ring is made of silver.

    5.SER: Time: days, dates, years, and the hour.

 __ Hoy es miercoles.
 __ Today is monday.

 __ Es la una.
 __ It is one o’clock.

 __ Son las tres.
 __ It’s three o’ clock (in Spanish it’s necessary to say ‘they are three o’ clock’ because ‘three’ is plural)

NOTE: In Spanish it is more common to say ‘we are in July’ than ‘it’s July’. In this case we use ‘estar’: e.g. ‘estamos en julio. However, if you want to speak about the month in other contexts you use ‘ser’: e.g. ‘julio es un mes muy largo’ – ‘July is a very long month.’

6.SER: Relationships and family

We use ‘ser’ for relationships, such as family ties, friendship, romantic relationships, professional relationships.

 __ That woman is my mother.
 __ Esa mujer es mi madre.

 __ Tu eres mi mejor amigo.
 __ You’re my best friend.

 __ Ese hijo de puta es mi jefe.
 __ That son of a bitch is my boss.

Uses of Estar.


We use ‘estar’ for…

1. ESTAR: Posture and position.

 __ Mi mama está sentada.
 __ My mother is sitting-down

 __ Estaba tumbada cuando me llamaste.
 __ I was lying down when you called me.



  1. ESTAR: Location

 __ El baño está alli.
 __ The bathroom’s over there.

 __ Estamos en un bar.
 __ We’re in a bar.

 __ El está en otra parte de la casa
 __ He’s in another part of the house.

 __ Paris esta en Francia
 __ Paris is in France.


Note: we use ‘ser’ for the location of a party/event and not ‘estar.’

 __ La fiesta es en su casa.  (The party is at his house.)



  1. ESTAR: Actions that are occurring at the moment.

    ‘Estar’ is a key part of the present continuous. For example, in English we use the verb ‘to be’ to say ‘I’m reading’. In Spanish we use ‘estar’  not ‘ser’: estoy leyendo – I’m reading.

     __ Estoy lavando mi coche
     __ I am washing my car.

     __ Estamos pensando en el sexo
     __ We are thinking about sex.

4.ESTAR: Physical and mental conditions.

Energy levels, Illness, and strangely enough – given that it’s most likely permanent – death!

 __ Estoy muy cansado.
 __ I’m very tired.

 __ Mi padre está enfermo
 __ My father’s sick.

 __ Mi perro está muerto.
 __ My dog is dead.

 __ Estás loco.
 __ You’re crazy.

  1. ESTAR: Feelings.

For emotional states in any given moment.

 __ Ella es triste.
 __ She’s sad.

 __ Ella está contenta porque ha recibido un regalo.
 __ She is happy because she’s received a present.


Words that change meaning with Ser and Estar.


ser aburrido
to be boring


estar aburrido
to be bored



ser bueno
to be good


estar bueno
to be tasty/attractive



ser cansado
to be a tiring person


estar cansado
to be tired


ser listo
to be clever


estar listo
to be ready


ser malo
to be bad


estar malo
to be ill


ser pesado
to be heavy/to be boring


estar pesado
to be annoying


ser rico
to be rich


estar rico
to be tasty


ser seguro
to be safe


estar seguro
to be certain



SER and ESTAR cheatsheet



location:The bathroom’s over there… Esta alli.
Posture/ position: My mother is sitting-down… Esta sentada.
Pres con: I’m eating… Estoy comiendo.
Conditions: tired, dead, ill, healthy… Estoy cansado.
Feelings: She’s sad… Esta triste.
Months: we’re in July… Estamos en julio.



Qualities permanent: She’s Irish / short… Es irlandesa.
Jobs: She’s a doctor… Es medico.
Personality: stupid / nice… Es estupida.
Origin: From london, made of gold… Soy de londres.
Relationships: friends / wife / mother / boss… Ella es mi madre.
Time: It’s 3PM… Son las tres.

Exercises: Translate the following (answers after every five questions)



  1. They’re lawyers.
  2. You’re not happy.
  3. Are they intelligent?
  4. Your birthday isn’t in June.
  5. They’re not sad.

Son abogados.

No eres feliz / no estas feliz (it was a trick. Did you give two answers because you didn’t know the context?

¿Son inteligentes?

Tu cumpleaños no es en junio.

No están tristes.

  1. You’re not thinking.
  2. Are they from Barcelona?
  3. She’s a teacher.
  4. We’re not eating.
  5. I’m not eating.

No estás pensando.

¿Son de Barcelona?

Es profesora.

No estamos hablando.

No estoy hablando.


  1. Is he stupid?
  2. I’m not from Italy.
  3. Are the summers long in Andalusia?
  4. We’re very beautiful.
  5. Are you eating.

¿Es estúpido?

No soy de Italia.

¿Son los veranos largos en Andalucía?

Somos muy guapos.

¿Estás hablando?

  1. It’s silver.
  2. She’s not lying down.
  3. I’m very tired.
  4. They’re not in the house.
  5. I’m in the city.

Es de plata.

Ella no está tumbada.

Estoy muy cansado.

No están en la casa.

Estoy en la ciudad.


  1. He’s there.
  2. Jane is sitting down.
  3. She’s not thinking.
  4. They’re made of silver.
  5. It’s not made of silver.


Él está ahí.

Jane está sentada.

Ella no está pensando.

Están hechos de plata.

No está hecho de plata.

  1. We’re not ill.
  2. It’s one o clock.
  3. Are you short?
  4. Is he my father?
  5. he’s a whore.

No estamos enfermos.

Es la una.

¿Eres bajo?

¿El es mi padre?

Él es un puto.

  1. Is the cat dead?
  2. Is Jane sitting down?
  3. Are you a doctor?
  4. She’s from Barcelona.
  5. He’s my boss.

¿El gato está muerto?

¿Jane está sentada?

¿Eres medico?

Ella es de Barcelona.

El es mi jefe.

  1. He isn’t my boss.
  2. Am I thinking?
  3. He’s not my father.
  4. My birthday’s in June.
  5. He’s my father.

El no es mi jefe.

¿Estoy pensando?

No es mi padre.

Mi cumpleaños es en junio.

Él es mi padre.

  1. Is your birthday in june?
  2. We’re in the house.
  3. She’s your boss
  4. He’s very stupid.
  5. Is it made of silver?

¿Es tu cumpleaños en junio?

Estamos en la casa.

Ella es tu jefe

El es muy estúpido.

¿Es de plata?

  1. You’re very ugly.
  2. He’s here.
  3. Are you beautiful?
  4. Is he from Italy?.
  5. Your cat is dead.


Eres muy feo.

Él está aquí.

¿Eres guapa?

Es de Italia.

Tu gato está muerto.

  1. What’s the time?
  2. Are they sad?
  3. We’re intelligent
  4. They’re not sitting down.
  5. She’s not sad.

¿Que hora es?

¿Están tristes?

Somos inteligentes

No están sentados.

Ella no está triste.

  1. Are they thinking?
  2. Are you eating?
  3. Summer isn’t very long in russia.
  4. He’s lying down.
  5. The dog is not outside.

¿Están pensando?

¿Estás hablando?

El verano no es muy largo en Rusia.

El está acostado.

El perro no está afuera.

  1. Summer is very long in Andalusia.
  2. I’m not very kind.
  3. Are you my mother?
  4. He’s a doctor.
  5. The house is in Spain.

El verano es muy largo en Andalucía.

No soy muy amable.

¿Eres mi madre?

Él es medico..

La casa está en España.

  1. I’m beautiful.
  2. We’re not teachers.
  3. She’s sad.
  4. I’m very intelligent.
  5. They’re thinking.

Soy guapo.

No somos profesores.

Ella está triste.

Soy muy inteligente.

Están pensando.

  1. The dog is outside.
  2. She isn’t my mother.
  3. Are you happy?
  4. They’re not stupid.
  5. They’re from Italy.

El perro está afuera.

Ella no es mi madre.

¿Estás feliz? / ¿Eres feliz?

No son estúpidos.

Ellos son de Italia.

  1. We’re not tired.
  2. She’s not beautiful.
  3. Are you a teacher?
  4. She’s ill.
  5. Is he Irish?

No estamos cansados.

Ella no es guapa.

¿Eres profesor?

Ella esta enferma.

¿Es irlandés?

  1. The party isn’t at 6 o’clock
  2. We’re not standing up.
  3. They’re lying down.
  4. It’s ten o clock.
  5. They’re not Spanish.

La fiesta no es a las 6.

No estamos de pie.

Están tumbados.

Son las diez.

No son españolas.

  1. Are you intelligent?
  2. Are you bored?
  3. She’s not a lawyer.
  4. He isn’t from Barcelona.
  5. Is he my boss?

¿Eres inteligente?

¿Estas aburrido?

No es abogada.

Él no es de Barcelona.

¿El es mi jefe? (sometimes you will hear the pronoun included at the end for emphasis: ‘¿es mi jefe EL?’

  1. She’s not very intelligent.
  2. Are you tired?
  3. She’s not here.
  4. She’s very short.
  5. She’s very intelligent.

Ella no es muy inteligente.

¿Estás cansado?

Ella no está aquí.

Ella es muy baja.

Ella es muy inteligente.

  1. Am I kind?
  2. Is he a lawyer?
  3. She’s not a doctor.
  4. She’s my mother.
  5. Are you lying down?


¿Soy amable?

Es un abogado.

Ella no es médico.

Ella es mi madre.

¿Estás tumbado?

  1. Rome is in Italy.
  2. You’re not sad.
  3. You’re very kind.
  4. He’s not short.
  5. Are they standing up?

Roma está en Italia.

No estás triste.

Eres muy amable.

El no es bajo.

¿Están de pie?

  1. Are you ill?
  2. I’m standing up.
  3. We’re very happy.
  4. I’m eating.
  5. I’m very bored.

¿Estás enfermo?

Estoy de pie.

Estamos muy contentos.

Estoy hablando.

Estoy muy aburrido.

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