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6.10: Gramática- Ser y estar

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    Verbs "ser" and "estar"


    As you have learned in 1.4.0 and 2.5.0, Spanish has two verbs that translate as "to be" and they are not interchangeable. You also learned several acronyms for the use of each verb to help you remember their usage. Go over the acronyms again:

    Ser Mnemonic device for Ser.png
    Estar Mnemonic device for Estar.png

    Acronyms for "ser"

    DOCTOR: Date and Day, Occupation, Characteristics, Time, Origin, Relation

    POTIONS: People, Occupation, Things, Identity, Origin, Nationality, Substance

    Acronym for "estar

    PLACE: Position, Location, Action, Condition, Emotion

    Here is a summary of when to use "ser" and when to use "estar":

    Uses of "ser"

    • Identity: María y Gisela son hermanas.
    • Origin and nationality: Soy de Bolivia. Soy boliviano.
    • Occupation/Profession: Helga y Fabiana son estudiantes.
    • Characteristics of people and places (if describing fundamental qualities/personality): Los chicos son bajos y son un poco gordos. Son simpáticos.
    • Possession: Fido es su perro. Es mi diccionario.
    • Time of day and dates: Son las cuatro de la tarde. Hoy es lunes.
    • Intentions: Este consejo es para ustedes.
    • Impersonal statements (general): Es importante comer fruta.
    • Substance (what something is made of): La mesa es de madera.
    • Mathematical equations: tres más tres son seis.
    • Location of events: Las consultas son en el hospital.

    Uses of "estar"

    • Position of people, places, things: El libro está en mi mochila. Diego está entre Susana y Ariel.
    • Location of people, places, things* (*not events): Estamos en la casa de Juan. La universidad está en el centro.
    • Condition: Physical (think "state of being"): Estáis muy guapos hoy. Paco está enfermo.
    • Emotions (think "transitory" condition): Estamos tristes ahora.
    • Actions in progress (present progressive): Pedro está hablando con Ana por teléfono.
    • Weather expressions: Está nublado hoy.

    "Ser" and "estar" with adjectives

    While certain adjectives can be used with both verbs, they communicate different ideas (the choice in verbs radically changes the meaning of the sentence). Let's look at the following examples. Note that all adjectives are in bold.

    Ser Estar

    Carlos es guapo.

    Carlos is handsome (characteristic).

    Carlos está muy guapo hoy.

    Carlos looks very handsome today (physical condition).

    Sara es aburrida.

    Sara is boring (personality).

    Sara está aburrida.

    Sara is bored (emotion).

    La fruta es verde.

    The fruit is green (characteristic).

    La fruta está verde.

    The fruit is not ripe (condition). *While the word "maduro" in Spanish is used for "ripe", it is not used for "not ripe".

    Olga es lista.

    Olga is smart (characteristic).

    Olga está lista.

    Olga is ready (physical condition).

    El ratón es vivo.

    The mouse is clever (characteristic).

    El ratón está vivo.

    The mouse is alive (physical condition: "state of being").

    Paula es una mujer segura.

    Paula is a confident woman (personality).

    Paula está segura.

    Paula is sure (emotion).

    ¡Ojo! When the adjectives "seguro, segura" are used with objects and the verb "ser", the meaning changes "to be safe": El elevador es seguro.

    The following video explains the differences between "ser" and "estar." It was created by Fresno City College Faculty.

    A Practicar

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Ejercicios: Ser y Estar II. Authored by: SUNY Oneonta with Lumen Learning. Provided by: SUNY Oneonta. License: CC BY: Attribution
    • Ejercicios: Ser y Estar II. Authored by: Lumen Learning with Freedom Learning Group. License: CC BY: Attribution