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Monday, August 1, 2005 (read 1890 times)

Tips for the Spanish verbs ser and estar

by Paqui

No es lo mismo ser que estar…

One of the most difficult lessons when learning or teaching Spanish, is the difference between the two Spanish verbs: Ser and Estar, since both verbs translate as the unique English verb to be, the French être, or the Italian essere.

Why do we have two different verbs in Spanish when in other indoeuropean languages there is only one? Perhaps the explanation is in the theory that states that languages evolve, specialising in semantic fields for which there is a certain need in that society (for example, in Eskimo language there are many different words for "snow").

Of course there are rules which help you to know when to use one verb or the other, and also a list of exceptions to the rules… but the trouble with ser and estar is the origin of many funny (and sometimes embarrassing) situations for students of Spanish.

Here are some examples to remember if you do not want to be the victim of the jokes of your Spanish friends:

  • Soy bueno - I am good
  • Estoy bueno - I am really good looking!
  • Soy malo - I am bad
  • Estoy malo - I am ill
  • Soy rico - I am rich
  • Estoy rico - I taste good

Keywords: spanish,grammar,beginners


1 » Angie (on Thursday, June 5, 2008) said:

Hi! thanks for the diff examples with ser and estar, it was really helpful! But this is relating to the eskimo comment. There aren't many different words for "SNOW" in their language. They have the same amount. I.E in english we have "Sleet" "Hail" "Flurries"
So the amount of words is around the same.

2 » Anonymous (on Thursday, April 24, 2008) said:

this is a sentence that i made description of ser.mi madre casa herrmoso is it correct

3 » worldwidespanish (on Saturday, October 1, 2005) said:

I can't see any relevance in the article posted by derkanzler, as it does not give any tips in the usage of ser and estar. It seems more like a personal praise. But well…
Personally I have found that the best way to explain the difference between ser and estar is to tell your students that "ser" is used to describe permanent situations and characteristics of people and objects. "Estar" is used to describe temporary situations.
él "es" un hombre gordo. He is a fat man. There is no point in arguing that he might lose that weight in the future. It is characteristical of that man to be fat.
La mesa "está" sucia. The table is dirty. This is a temporary situation. It is NOT characteristical for the table to be dirty.

I hope this will shine some light on the usage of ser and estar for the doubters among you.

Greetings to all interested in the Spanish language.

4 » Anonymous (on Thursday, December 20, 2007) said:

how about going the other way (from spanish to english) with translating the verb hacer? I had quite a few of my students today write on sentences that said 'I am doing a snowman' but I couldn't think of a rule to differentiate between to do and to make…

5 » Anonymous (on Thursday, June 5, 2008) said:

"Doing" should be translated as "make up", "setting up" =temporary
"making" should be "preparing", "confectionate"=more permanent
I hope this helps you

6 » derkanzler (on Monday, January 10, 2005) said:

The art of learning a new language

Dedicated to all the people who want to experiment new learning experiences in a new language.

Fundamentally the most important and necessary thing to do when learning a language is the will, tenacity, and to put effort into it.

Personally I speak German, English and Italian, of course there is as well my mother tongue Spanish. I learnt all this languages by myself without any teacher and I was never in any of those countries before. I just remember my will of learning and communicating with other people in other languages. I was also lucky to work in a hotel as a waiter and then as a receptionist so I had the chance to practice a lot.

If somebody asked me about the secret behind learning a language I would say that basically you have to forget your fear. Most people just don't learn because they're afraid. They don't want to make mistakes when they try to speak. Having the experience of teaching langua

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