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Published on: Grammar Bites

How can I tell ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ apart?

Ser are Estar  two of the most important verbs in the Spanish language, but it can be tricky for learners to tell them apart and remember all the rules about how to use them. That’s why we have some easy tips to learn when to use ser and estar!

Uses of ‘ser’:

To introduce someone and describe their relationhips, profession, personality, moral or physical characteristics:

  • Ella es Ana; es la hermana de Pedro. Ella es alta y pelirroja. Ana es médica y es muy amable con sus pacientes. That’s Ana; she’s Pedro’s sister. She’s tall and has red hair. Ana is a doctor and she’s very kind to her patients.

To express where an event takes place:

  • ¿Dónde será la fiesta? La fiesta es en la casa de Juan. Where is the party? The party is at Juan’s house.

To express where a person or object comes from:

  • Ellos son de Paraguay. They are from Paraguay.

To provide definitions and opinions:

  • ¿Qué es eso? Es una nueva aplicación para hacer compras. Es muy práctica. What’s that? It’s a new app for doing groceries. It’s very practical.
Uses of ‘estar’:

To locate people, objects or places within a specific space:

  • ¿Dónde está María? Está en la escuela. Where’s María? She’s at school.
  • ¿Has visto mis llaves? Están sobre la mesa de la cocina. Have you seen my keys? They’re on the kitchen table.
  • ¿Dónde está la zapatería? Está a dos cuadras de aquí, al lado del banco. Where’s the shoe store? It’s two blocks from here, next to the bank.

To express emotions, feelings, attitudes and current moods/states of being:

  • Los niños están aburridos por la lluvia. The kids are bored because of the rain.
  • Él está muy ocupado con su trabajo nuevo, pero está muy contento también. He’s very busy with his new job, but he’s also very happy.

To express an action that’s happening at the time of speaking; we use it with the gerundio:

  • Estamos estudiando para el examen del viernes. We’re studying for Friday’s exam.
  • Ella está entrenando para la maratón. She’s training for the marathon.

To discuss an activity:

  • Sus padres están de viaje y Ana está de casera. Her parents are on a trip and she’s housekeeping for them.
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