Grammar 101: A Definitive Guide to Ser vs Estar

Fri, 18 Sep 2020

Whether you’re studying Spanish in a language course or all by yourself, it’s common to see novice Spanish learners asking questions regarding Ser and Estar, two Spanish verbs that both mean “to be”.


So, what’s the big deal? What’s the difference between Ser and Estar? When should you use it, and how to do it correctly? 


Today is your lucky day because LingoTalk is here to help you solving your grammar problems. Just as we covered on how to use the English prepositions, IN, ON, and AT, in the last Grammar 101. Here, we will delve on how to use Ser and Estar properly as a native would.


Let’s go and find out!


So, What’s the Big Deal?

Getting occasionally confused between Ser and Estar won’t cause that much problem, will it?


Unfortunately, it does.


There’s a comparatively big difference between saying that someone is a good person and good looking. Additionally, you won’t want to get mistaken for being a boring person, when in fact, you want to say that you’re bored.


While grammar is just the tip of the iceberg, remember that having a great grammar skill will help you in the long run, whether it’s for career or scholarship abroad.


Additionally, as we’ve covered in our last article about our Spanish Netflix series recommendations, it’s not enough to just study Spanish in a textbook! Spanish is known for its dialect, accent, and colloquialism, which means you need to immerse yourself in the language through other media.


When to Use Estar

Estar is used to describe temporary states, present continuous, locations, and emotions. Let’s break it down into these explanations below!


For Locations

When we want to describe a person or thing’s location, we use the temporary verb Estar. 


For example:


English: Where is Maria? / Maria is at the supermarket.

Espanol: ¿Donde está Maria? / Está en el supermercado.


For the Temporary States

One way to use Estar is to describe someone’s mood. The mood is temporary and it might change in the future.


English: He/she is sad.

Espanol: Está triste.


However, is that person is a gloomy or generally sad person, you can say Ser instead to describe him/her. For example, es triste, which means he/she is a sad person.


For Present Continous

Estar is also used for present continuous tense, which is a tense used to describe actions happening in or around the moment of speaking.


Here’s a quick cheat sheet:


Verb estar in present tense + “-ando” (-AR verbs)/”-iendo” (-IR/-ER verbs)


For example:


  • Sentar: Estoy sentado. (I’m sitting.)
  • Comer: Están comiendo. (They’re eating.)
  • Leer: Estamos leyendo. (We’re reading.)


When to Use Ser

On the contrary, we use Ser to describe long-lasting things or things that generally don’t or can’t change. For example someone’s height, occupation, possession, relationship, or time.


To Describe People or Things

Describing here means that you use Ser for the physical description, personality traits, or nationality of a person.


For example:


English: He is tall.

Espanol: El es alto.


English: She is intelligent and kind.

Espanol: Ella es inteligente y amable.


English: She is from Indonesia.

Espanol: Ella es de Indonesia.


Height, personality, and nationality are something that is considered essential within someone.


To Talk about the Day, Hour, Time, etc.

Last but not the least, Ser is also used to talk about the day, hour, and time.


For example:


English: Today is Monday.

Espanol: Hoy es Lunes.


English: Tomorrow is July 21st.

Espanol: Mañana es el 21 de Julio.


English: My birthday is in April.

Espanol: Mi cumpleaños es en Abril.


To Describe Occupations

Someone’s job is also considered as a permanent attribute to them as a person, hence the use of Ser.


For example:


English: What is your job? / I am a teacher.

Espanol: ¿De qué trabajas? / Soy profesora.


To Talk about Relationships

Spanish believes that a relationship is a part of you, hence the use of Ser to describe someone’s relationship with others.


For example:


English: She is my sister.

Espanol: Ella es mi hermana.


English: Julia is Karen girlfriend.

Espanol: Julia es la novia de Karen.


To Talk about Possession

If you want to talk about something that belongs to you or others, you should always use Ser.


For example:


English: The book is mine.

Espanol: El libro es mio.


It’s Not That Hard, Isn’t It?

Now that you know how to use Ser and Estar correctly, it’s time to get more immersed in the intricacy of Spanish grammar.


Taking education to the next level, LingoTalk offers you a fully online 1-on-1 class where you will learn not only about the language, but also the culture. The curriculum is personalized to your need and focused on conversation skills as well, making it a perfect choice for a novice learner like you.


Our classes are equipped by a range of adept, fun tutors that make grammar, including Ser and Estar, much more memorable.


Inspired to get started? Book your language course at LingoTalk and let our tutor help you to achieve your goals, Cariño!



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