Ser y Estar
Written by tutor Jamie S.
The verb “to be” is the most commonly used verb, even though many of us don’t really
think about it. Don’t believe me? Consider how many times you say, “am,” “is,” or “are”
every day! Maybe you didn’t even know that was the verb “to be.”
Let’s look at how it is conjugated in English:
|I am||We are|
|You are||You (all) are|
|S/he, It is||They are|
In English we only have one verb that means “to be,” but in Spanish there are actually two. These two
verbs are ser and estar. Just like English, they are not conjugated like most regular
verbs in Spanish.
So, when do we use ser and when do we use estar?
In general, ser is used to express more permanent ideas such as occupation and origin.
On the other hand, estar is mostly used to express temporary ideas such as emotions or
Here is a more detailed overview of when to use ser and estar:
Identify people and things.
Tell someone’s career or occupation.
Describe basic, inherent characteristics.
Express origin (with de) or nationality.
Express possession (with de).
Tell what material something is made of (with de).
Tell for whom or what something is intended (with para).
Describe emotions and mental states.
Describe temporary states or conditions.
Form the progressive tense (with present
With fixed certain expressions.
The idea of having two verbs that mean “to be” can be a difficult concept for English
speakers to grasp at the beginning. But one of the benefits is that you can change the
whole meaning of a sentence just by changing the verb!
Take a look at these examples:
(What is it like?)
(How is it?)
|¿Cómo es tu mejor amigo?
What is your best friend like?
|¿Cómo estás hoy?
How are you today?
|Daniel es un hombre guapo.
Daniel is a handsome man.
|Daniel está muy guapo esta noche.
Daniel looks very handsome tonight.
|Carmen es una persona nerviosa.
Carmen is a high-strung person.
|Carmen está nerviosa porque tiene un examen.
Carmen is nervous because she has an exam.
|Mi profesor es muy aburrido.
My professor is so boring.
|¡Estoy muy aburrido!
I’m so bored!
Now you know when to use ser and when to use estar! Test out your new knowledge to
see if you can choose the correct verb for each sentence:
Ser y Estar Practice Quiz
Mi primo _____ un doctor pediátrico. (My cousin is a pediatric doctor.)
La Torre Eiffel y el Museo del Louvre _____ en París. (The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum are in Paris.)
Mi familia y yo _____ originalmente de Argentina. (My family and I are originally from Argentina.)
¡Siempre ______ cansado porque nunca duermes! (You’re always tired because you never sleep!)