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How to use the verbs SER and ESTAR correctly in Spanish

By: Josefina Martinen. Online Spanish tutor.





The verbs SER and ESTAR are the ones that cause a lot of confusion among Spanish learners. In this article, you will learn to differentiate them definitively.


In this article, you will learn to differentiate them definitively. There’s a QUIZ at the end.


Let’s start with the conjugation of these verbs:

The verb SER is used to talk about:


1. Physical appearance and personality traits.


Ex:

  • Mis padres son altos - My parents are tall.

  • Juan es muy simpático - Juan is very nice.

  • En mi familia, somos todos rubios - In my family, we are all blonde.


2. Identity or permanent features (nationality, religion, etc.).


Ex:

  • Yo soy Martín - I’m Martin.

  • Mi familia es católica - My family is catholic.

  • Este es el Teatro Municipal - This is the Municipal Theater.

  • Este collar es de oro - This is a gold necklace.


3. Family or personal relationships.


Ex:

  • Sara y María son mis hermanas - Sara and María are my sisters.

  • Juan es mi amigo - Juan is my friend.

  • Mariana es mi prima - Mariana is my cousin.

  • Este señor es mi jefe - This man is my boss.


4. When or where an event takes place.


Ex:

  • El juego de fútbol americano es en Boston - The football game is in Boston.

  • El concierto es el miércoles - The concert is on Wednesday.

  • Mi cumpleaños es la semana próxima - My birthday is next week.


5. With the preposition PARA indicates recipient or purpose.


Ex:

  • Este regalo es para Gabriel - This present is for Gabriel.

  • Esta máquina es para hacer jugos - This machine is for making juice.


6. Ask for a price.


Ex:

  • ¿Cuánto es? - How much is this?

  • Son 2 dólares - Is 2 dollars.

NOTE: With the preposition A it is used with ESTAR. Ex: ¿A cuánto están las manzanas? - How much are the apples?


7. Indicate a profession or occupation.


Ex:

  • Juana es una Periodista - Juana is a Journalist.

  • Yo soy Ingeniero - I’m an Engineer.


8. Tell and ask for the time.


Ex:

  • ¿Qué hora es? - What time is it?

  • Son las 2 de la tarde - It’s 2 o’clock.


The verb ESTAR is used for:


1. Temporary moods or health conditions.


Ex:

  • Ella está muy triste por el examen - She’s sad for the test.

  • María está enferma - Maria is sick.

  • Estoy de mal humor - I'm in a bad mood.

  • Estamos muy cansados - We are very tired.


2. Appearance and temporary conditions.


Ex:

  • Juan está muy bronceado - Juans is very tan.

  • Mi abuela está muy bien - My grandmother is very good.

  • Los niños están grandes - The children are big.


3. Marital status.


Ex:

  • Estoy casado/a - I’m married.

  • Estoy divorciado/a - I’m divorced.

  • Estoy soltero/a - I’m single.

NOTE: Soy viudo/a - I’m a widower.


4. Location.


Ex:

  • Mi casa está en la playa - My house is on the beach.

  • El estadio está en la ciudad - The stadium is in the city.

  • Estoy en mi casa - I'm at home.

  • Los jugadores están en el hotel - The players are in the hotel.


5. ESTAR + gerundio


This construction is used to describe an action in progress). Ex:

  • Estamos comiendo en el jardín - We are eating in the garden.

  • Estoy bebiendo una copa de vino - I’m drinking a glass of wine.

  • Están limpiando la casa - I’m cleaning the house.


Now that you know how to use the verbs SER and ESTAR in Spanish, complete THIS QUIZ to practice and master these important verbs.

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