Ser versus Estar: It’s Easier than you Think

ser-versus-estar

The battle of ser versus estar tends to be a problem for beginner Spanish students. In English, ser and estar are both translations of the verb to be (I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, they are). It can be difficult to understand when to use ser or estar when you only have one verb for them in your native language. However, using ser and estar correctly is easier than you think. For starters, let’s see the conjugations of ser and estar in the present tense in Spanish.

Conjugations of Ser and Estar

SER

ESTAR

Take a Guess

Now rather than giving you a list of rules on how to use the verbs ser and estar in Spanish, I want you to read the following dialogue and guess those rules yourself. Pay attention to all the times the verbs ser and estar appear in the conversation and try to answer the following questions.

  • How many times do the verbs ser and estar appear?
  • Are they conjugated? In which person? (él/ella/usted, vos, etc)
  • What is the verb used for? (to describe a person, a feeling, location etc.)

Read this Dialogue

  • Analía: Hola, ¿cómo estás?
  • Yo: Estoy bien. ¡Mira esta foto de mi mamá! 
  • Analía: ¿Esa es tu mamá? ¡Está muy guapa!
  • Yo: Sí, está más delgada y bronceada.
  • Analía: ¿Dónde está tu mamá?
  • Yo: Está en Italia.
  • Analía: ¿Y quién es ella?
  • Yo: Es mi abuela.
  • Analía: ¿Tu abuela es italiana?
  • Yo: Sí, es de Sicilia, Italia.
  • Analía: ¿Qué están haciendo tu mamá y tu abuela en Italia?
  • Yo: Están visitando a la hermana de mi abuela.
  • Analía: ¿Cómo es la hermana tu abuela?
  • Yo: Es baja, gorda y rubia.
  • Analía: ¿A qué se dedica?
  • Yo: Es ama de casa.

Answering the Questions

How many times does the verb estar appear? A total of eight times. 

Is the verb conjugated? Yes. 

In which person? ESTOY: first person singular yo, ESTÁ: third person singular ella, and ESTÁN: third person plural ellas.

How many times does the verb ser appear? A total of eight times.

Is the verb conjugated? Yes. 

In which person? ES: third person singular ella. 

Different Uses of SER and ESTAR

What verb was used to express the following? Take a moment to re-read the dialogue and think of your answers.

  • Nationality (Eg. I am from Serbia)
  • Location (Eg. I am in Chile)
  • Occupation (Eg. I am a doctor)
  • Permanent physical description (Eg. I am tall)
  • Non permanent physical description (Eg. I am fat)
  • Wellbeing (Eg. I’m fine)
  • Action occurring right now (Eg. I am eating a sandwich)

It is Easier than you Think 

If you answered correctly, then you should know by now that SER is used to talk about nationality, occupation, and permanent physical description. While ESTAR is used to talk about non permanent physical description, wellbeing, location, and action occurring right now. See? It is easier than you think.

Say Goodbye to Frustrations

Of course there can be some exceptions to these rules. However, as long as you remember what you just learned then you will have a good foundation. And if you still struggle with ser versus estar, remember not to get frustrated. The most important thing is to take it easy and enjoy the language learning journey.

By the way, I have a material in my TPT store that will help you win the battle and get some ser versus estar practice. Click on the image below to check it out.

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¡Hola! Soy Melany

yo melany

I’m so happy you’re here! My name is Melany and I help language learners speak Argentine Spanish. I primarily teach Argentine slang and idioms, how to sound more natural and to speak Spanish with confidence.

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