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Grammar Basics



Spanish 101A

Spanish 101B

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Both Ser and Estar mean "to Be", but in different ways. Let's review the different uses of each verb.

Ser is used with:

Elements pertinent to your or others' identity

    physical description, personality and character, nationality, race, gender, profession, origin, What things are made of

Things which "Take Place" or "Occur" in Time:

    Dates, days, seasons, time, events, concerts, parties


Click here to Review Ser and to see more examples

Estar is used for States of Being

Emotional, physical & mental states of (our bodies') being:

  • Feelings/moods/emotions, physical conditions or appearances, civil state (married, single, divorced, dead)

Placement State of Being:

  • Location of things and people (but not events)

Motion State of Being

Click here to Review Estar and to see more examples

Ser vs. Estar

A few adjectives have different meanings depending upon which form of "to Be" you use.  Generally, if you use Ser, the adjective is a characteristic of the person or thing you are describing; whereas if you use Estar, it is a description of a mood or appearance.

For example:

Ser (Identity)

Estar (Condition)

Él es aburrido.
(He is boring -a boring person)

 Soy nerviosa.
(I am a nervous, high-strung person)

Ella es bonita.
(She is pretty -a pretty girl.)

Yo estoy aburrida.
(I am [feel] bored.)

Estoy nerviosa.
(I am/feel nervous)

Está bonita.
(She looks pretty. )

You may have heard that Ser is used for things which are permanent and Estar is used for things which are temporary. This is an over-simplification and not a good way to think of these verbs because you will end up with a lot of exceptions and confusion.

Try to forget you ever heard that. It is better to remember that Ser pertains to Identity (with all of its elements) and that Estar pertains to States of Being: Condition, Location, and Motion (the Present Progressive.)