SER vs. ESTAR in Spanish – Part One

SER vs. ESTAR in Spanish – Part One

Mastering the difference between the Spanish infinitive verbs SER and ESTAR at the very beginning of the learning process is essential for the future fluency as incorrect usage of them cause some funny situations while talking to the native speakers of Spanish or even bring you into troubles. Both verbs mean in English TO BE, but depending on the context they give the same adjectives completely different interpretations.

The verb SER is used to describe constant properties like occupation, nationality, place of origin, appearance, personality, possession, personal relationships etc. SER is also the right choice if you speak about time (day, hour) or the price of something.

ESTAR mostly defines a short-term state or condition of a person or an object as well as physical or geographic location. Human emotions are the most prominent example of such time-limited conditions when ESTAR is used. ESTAR also describes ongoing actions – similar to Present Continuous in English – and is often followed by a present participle (ESTAR + gerundio). See more details in the examples below.

NOTE: Personal relationships meaning blood-related connections or friendships need to be used with SER, while marital status goes with ESTAR, except in “ser viudo” – “to be widowed”.

Conjugation of SER

PresentePretérito ImperfectoPretérito IndefinidoFuturo
yosoyerafuiseré
ereserasfuisteserás
él/ella/Ustedeserafueserá
nosotros/nosotrassomoséramosfuimosseremos
vosotros/vosotrassoiseraisfuisteisseréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedessoneranfueronserán

Conjugation of ESTAR

PresentePretérito ImperfectoPretérito IndefinidoFuturo
yoestoyestabaestuveestaré
estásestabasestuvisteestarás
él/ella/Ustedestáestabaestuvoestará
nosotros/nosotrasestamosestábamosestuvimosestaremos
vosotros/vosotrasestáisestabaisestuvisteisestaréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedesestánestabanestuvieronestarán

Examples of SER:

(Yo) soy de Ucrania – I am from Ukraine

Michael es alemán – Michael is German

Ella es muy bonita – She is very pretty

Soy hermano de Juan – I am Juan’s brother

El reloj es de oro – The watch is gold

Son las cinco – It‘s five o’clock

Hoy es lunes – Today is Monday

Son 50 euros – It´s 50 euros (meaning “it costs 50 euros”)

Examples of ESTAR:

Carlo está triste – Carlo is sad

¿Cómo estás? – How are you?

Estoy en Madrid – I am in Madrid

La farmacia está abierta – The pharmacy is open

Julio e Isabel están casados – Julio and Isabel are married

Estamos hablando – We are talking (right now)

In the second part, I am going to publish a list of adjectives which have different meanings depending on whether they are used with SER or ESTAR. It will be funny!

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