SER vs ESTAR .What is the main difference between SER and ESTAR? That is the type of DM I get on my Instagram account at least once a month. And It’s true, these two Spanish verbs can be easily described as  tricky pairs. You know,  POR and PARA, Imperfecto and Indefinido…. Oh,and, they are also irregular verbs.

Why is there so much confusion? Well mainly because both are translated into just one verb in English: TO BE.

If you ask to a Spanish teacher right away what is the main difference between SER and ESTAR  I’m positive you will get that answer: we use SER for permanent things and ESTAR for temporary ones. It sounds easy to understand, it’s kind of true and definitely what you need to know IF you are a beginner.

Probably a month after starting learning Spanish, you will figure out that for instance when we want to say that somebody is dead we use the verb ESTAR.  Seriously? Yes, I know. Is there anything in the world more permanent than that – dead-? Probably not. And yes, there are many other exceptions to that basic rule. Do not worry I will cover other intermediate and advance uses of SER and ESTAR in other lessons.

Meanwhile let me teach you the main difference between SER and ESTAR.

Don’t forget to practice your listening skills by watching the video lesson and test your knowledge by doing the free interactive activities I made for you.

SER and ESTAR conjugation (Present tense)

I told you, SER and ESTAR are irregular. Learn / review how to conjugarte them with the chart below:

 

When we use SER 

Permanent is an abstract word. So, Let’s specify and see what do we mean with examples and explanations.

To identify

  • Ella es Lola
  • Él es mi hermano
  • Esta mujer es mi profesora

Descriptions (physical & character)

When we want to make a permanent description we use SER:

  • Lola es guapa, es alta, es morena, 
  • Lola es joven, es simpática, es inteligente

You might hear Lola está guapa. Is that correct? Absolutely

When we say Lola es guapa we assume she is beautiful, we find her features attractive and good looking. If you hear someone saying:  ¡Uy, hoy Lola está muy guapa! or ¡Lola, qué guapa estás! that involves that specifically today she looks beautiful. She looks prettier because you can notice she’s happier, she’s wearing a new dress.. you know, sometimes you just see someone specially beautiful for some hidden an magical reason… that day you use ESTAR.

Extra: It’s quite common  to say it when you haven’t seen a friend for a while.

Nationality or origin

  • Lola es española
  • Matías de Galicia
  • John es de San Diego

Profession

  • Lola es bióloga
  • Mi hermano es cocinero
  • Yo soy profesora de español

But, hold on: Lola está de cajera en un supermercadoSo, when we have a temporary job (or a job that we want to be temporary for any reason) we use the verb ESTAR.

It amazes me how many times grammar is NOT just grammar. And I love it. It can help you not only to upgrade your understanding but also to avoid misunderstandings. 

Let’s talk facts: asking about someone’s professions is most probably one of the first questions you get to ask /answer. Take a quick look at these 2 little dialogues:

DIALOGUE A

  • ¿A qué te dedicas?
  • Soy camarera en un restaurante

Translation: She’s proudly a waitress and isn’t thinking about change her job.

DIALOGUE B

  • ¿A qué te dedicas?
  • Estoy de camarera en un restaurante

Translation: she’s not happy with the job, or she’s not unhappy but would like to change it + I bet she wants you to ask her more questions so she can tell you that she’s working as a waitress BUT she’s actually a graphic designer.

Essential nature

  • El cielo es azul
  • La pelota es redonda
  • Las nubes son blancas

Material

  • Esta mesa es de madera
  • La fregona es de plástico

Not sure what a fregona is? I’ve got you covered. Check out my lesson on household chores in Spanish and learn a bit of vocabulary!

Definition

  • El té verde es una bebida no alcohólica y saludable.

Possession 

  • El bolso es de mi madre
  • *¡Flipa! Este coche es de las Kardashian

Don’t you know what  ¡Flipa! is? It’s ok. You can learn how to speak like a Spaniard here.

Time – (What time is it?)

  • Son las cuatro de la tarde
  • Yo como a la una
  • Salgo de trabajar a las ocho y media 

When we use ESTAR

Talking about moods

  • Lola está contenta
  • Juan está enfadado
  • Ana está triste

Civil status 

  • Mi amiga Clara está soltera
  • Pedro está casado con Irene

Fun fact: We use ESTAR when someone’s dead but we use SER when we want to say we were married but that person died.

Temporary state 

  • Su vestido está sucio
  • El teléfono está apagado

Posture

  • La profesora está de pie
  • Estoy sentada delante del ordenador

Seasons

  • Estamos en otoño

Ubicación

  • ¿Dónde estás? Estoy en la playa
  • Sevilla está en el sur de España

Buuuut, when we talk about an event, we use the verb SER.

  • La fiesta es en la playa
  • La boda es en la catedral

Fecha

We can use both! 

  • Hoy es martes o Hoy estamos a martes

That’s it. We covered the main difference between SER vs ESTAR.

Video lesson about SER vs ESTAR

Being able to read/study/understand something in your native language helps. I get that.

However, if you want to go a step forward , take a look at my video lesson taught in Spanish. If you feel insecure, use the English subtitles! It is another great way to learn Spanish.

FREE GIFT: interactive activity + visual summary

Do you want to practice more? Ok, so ¿Cómo estás?, ¿Dónde estás? , ¿Cómo eres? Leave me a comment below using SER or ESTAR and I will correct you!

Did you find the lesson useful? Print it, save it as PDF or even email to a friend. You know what they say, SHARING IS CARING so.. .if you know about someone learning Spanish, share the lesson in your social media! It’ll mean the world to me. Thanks! ♥︎

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Privacy Preference Center