The difference between ser and estar

door Regina Coeli

One of the first things you discover when you start learning Spanish is that there are two words for the verb ‘to be’: ser and estar. So in Spanish—to paraphrase Shakespeare—the question is: ‘to be or to be’? In this article we briefly explain when you use one and when you use the other.

When do you use ser and estar?

In short, it works like this:


Ser   Estar
- Qualities
- Profession
- Nationality
- Expressions of time, dates, days and events
- Ownership
  - Temporary ownership or state
- Position and location
- Actions
- Emotions

Conjugating ser and estar

If you know which context you need to use ser or estar for, you can choose the right conjugation. As in many other languages, most commonly-used verbs in Spanish are irregular.


Ser   Estar
Yo soy    
Tú eres    
Él/Ella/Usted es
Nosotros/Nosotras somos
Vosotros sois    
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes son
  Yo estoy
Tú estás
Él/Ella/Usted está
Nosotros/Nosotras estamos
Vosotros estáis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes están


The examples below show you which verb is used with which form.

Yo soy Sara.

I am Sarah.

Soy profesora de español.

I am a Spanish teacher.

Ahora es la una.

It is one o’clock.

Ana es de España.

Ana comes/is from Spain.

Mi abuela está sentada.

My grandmother is sitting.

Estoy triste.

I am sad.

Estamos en Madrid.

We are in Madrid.

Juan es muy simpático.

Juan is very nice/friendly.

The effect on adjectives

Some adjectives take on a different meaning, depending on whether you use them with ser or estar.

Ser abierto

To be sincere

Estar abierto

To be open

Ser aburrido

To be dull, tiring

Estar aburrido

To be bored

Ser bueno

To be good

Estar bueno

To be tasty or attractive





Ser listo

To be smart

Estar listo

To be ready

Ser rico

To be rich

Estar rico

To be tasty

Ser seguro

To be safe

Estar segmenturo

To be sure

Ser verde

To be green

Estar verde

To be unripe

Ser viejo

To be old

Estar viejo

To look old

Ser vivo

To be sharp/astute

Estar vivo

To be alive


Beyond ser and estar?

If you want to learn Spanish, look beyond the grammatical rules. At Regina Coeli, you will learn to speak Spanish from the very start while learning the language you need for your daily life or work.

Please contact us to discuss how we can help you! If you would like to know more about how we work, we suggest viewing these pages:

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