Ser vs Estar

Written byJada Lòpez

To Be, & the Progressive Tense

The verb 'to be' in English is irregular. We may not think about it that way, but there it displays no regular pattern and therefore each subject that we are talking about must have its own verb form. For example, when I say: 'I am a man', this statement uses the verb 'I am' and is rooted in the verb 'to be'.

When speaking or writing in Spanish, the verb 'to be' is also irregular. However, Spanish has two different verbs for the verb, 'to be'. That might sound scary, but once you get the hang of it, you won't have much of a problem figuring out which form to use.

The two verbs of 'to be' in Spanish are 'Estar' and 'Ser' ****.

Before we talk about their differences, let's talk about their irregular forms, one at a time.

The Verb 'Estar'

Estar is conjugated in the following manner:

Subject: Verb: Pronunciation:
Yo estoy ehs-toy
Tu estas ehs-tahs
El/Ella/Ud esta eh-stah
Nosotros estamos eh-stah-mohs
Vosotros estais eh-stah-ees
Ellos/Ellas/Uds estan eh-stahn

The verb 'Ser' ****

Subject: Verb: Pronunciation:
Yo soy soy
Tu eres eh-rehs
El/Ella/Ud es ehs
Nosotros somos soh-mohs
Vosotros sois soy-ees
Ellos/Ellas/Uds son sohn

The Differences of 'To Be'

Basically, the difference of each verb depends upon the meaning you want to express. Both verbs have their time and place for normal usage.

In general:

  1. The verb 'Ser' is used for things that are permanent, or something that is not likely to change for a long period of time.

Ex. Ser: origin, nationality, personal qualities

****Pedro es de Puerto Rico. (Pedro is from Puerto Rico.)
****El es de Puerto Rico. (He is from Puerto Rico.)

Ex. Ser: occupations, qualities, or traits that will most likely not change

****Pedro es jugador de baloncesto. (Pedro is a basketball player.)
****Pedro es alto. (Pedro is tall.)

Ex. Ser: time & dates, possessions, and certain expressions

****Son las dos. (It's two o'clock.)
****Es el catorce de febrero. (It's the 14th of February.)
****El libro es mio. (The book is mine.)
****Es necessario jugar baloncesto todos los dias. (One has to play basketball everyday.)

  1. The verb 'Estar' is used for things that are not permanent, or something that might be short-lived.
    Ex. Estar: something temporary

Ex. Estar: Express the location of someone or something

****¿Donde esta Pedro? (Where is Pedro?)
****Pedro esta en su casa. (Pedro is in his house.)

****¿Donde esta el supermercado? (Where is the supermarket?)
****El supermercado esta a la derecha. (The supermarket is to the right.)

Finally, there are some idiomatic expressions that will come in handy if you know how to use them with the verb estar.

Here are a few:

Ex. Estar de acuerdo. (To be in agreement with someone or something)

****Estoy de acuerdo con los nueves leyes. (I agree with the new laws.)
****El presidente esta de acuerdo con la Casa Blanca. (The president agrees with the White House.)

Ex. Estar de vuelta (To be back or coming back.)

****Estoy de vuelta. (I'm back. Or, I've returned.)

****Te doy la vuelta. (I'm giving you your change. [Used in Spain from by a vendor after an item has been purchased].


Fill in the blank with the correct form of the verb 'To Be'. You will use either 'estar' or 'ser'.

  1. ****______ de los Estados Unidos. (I am from the United States.)
  2. ****El ______ muy consado. (He is very tired.)
  3. ****______ un enfermero. (I'm a nurse.)
  4. ****Sus libros _____ aqui.
  5. ****Ahora, el avion ______ en el cielo. (Right now, the plane is in the sky.)
  6. ****Nosotros ______ el la cuidada hasta lunes. (We are in the city until Monday.)
  7. ****Nosotros ______ de Nueva York. (We are from New York.)
  8. ****_____ las dos y media de la tarde.
  9. ****El _____ de acuerdo contigo. (He is in agreement with you.)
  10. ****_____ necessario limpiar la cocina todos los dias. (One must clean the kitchen everyday.)


Answers: ****1. Soy; 2. es; 3. soy; 4. estan; 5. esta; 6. Estamos; 7. somos; 8. son; 9. esta; 10. es

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Author: Jada Lòpez
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