The Differences between "ser" and "estar"

Beginner Spanish - Level A1


There are two verbs that mean “to be” in Spanish, ser and estar. Ser is used in a simple way, to talk about WHAT something is (permanent state). To describe characteristics that are an essential part of the thing we’re talking about. Estar is used to talk about HOW something is (temporary state), so we use it for conditions, locations, emotions, and actions.

language250Asset 173@250x-8

Back to the Course

Hi, you can review other topics from this course level.

Spanish A1


Visit the Shop

Visit the Shop

Start classes with one of our professional teachers today.

Visit the Shop


Now that we know that we have two verbs meaning “to be” in Spanish, how do we know how to choose between them? In our previous lessons we talked about the verbs SER and ESTAR and how they both mean “to be” in Spanish. Today, we are going to talk about how to know when to use each one.

The easiest way to choose between SER and ESTAR is to decide if the sentence is about:

  1. Location
  2. Condition/Feeling
  3.  Present Progressive Tense (-ing)

If the sentence is about one of these topics above, you use ESTAR! If the sentence does not involve one of these scenarios, you will use SER.

Here are the scenarios for using SER:

  1. Description
  2. Occupation
  3. Time
  4. Origin
  5. Possession
Don't miss out!

Hi there, you are currently not signed in.

CORE Languages students who are signed in get credit for daily engagement while studying. Additionally, save your quiz and test grades by logging in. Even if you are just a language buff wanting to get a bit more studying in, Sign In and receive weekly content updates, access to Free PDF guides and special pricing on online training from our shop.

Additional Activities

Review the unit lesson above and complete additional activities to build your understanding of this topic. For the activities listed below, make sure you are signed in to keep track of your progress, to receive our weekly topics e-mail and special promotions! We are letting you know, you are not signed in. And progress will not be saved.

Let’s practice!
For 3-10 you will choose whether to use SER or ESTAR. Then, you will conjugate the verb based on the subject of the sentence. Be sure to click READ MORE once you are finished to check your work with the answer key. 

  1. T/F Ser and Estar both mean to be.
  2. T/F We use SER to talk about the time.

     In the following sentences choose between either SER or ESTAR and then conjugate the verb.

  3. Yo _________ contento porque hace buen tiempo.
  4. Mi madre _________ de San Francisco, Ca.
  5. Nosotros _________ en la casa de Manuel.
  6. Esperanza y Pepita _________ profesoras de arte.
  7. La comida _________ caliente.
  8. _________ las doce y media.
  9. Mis compañeros y yo _________ trabajadores.
  10. Tú _________ estudiando (studying) el Español todos los días.



Answer Key (the reason for choosing SER vs. ESTAR is in parenthesis next to the verb): 1. T, 2. F, 3 Estoy (feeling), 4. Es (origin), 5. Estamos (location), 6. Son (occupation), 7. Está (condition), 8. Son (time), 9. Somos (description), 10. Estás (present progressive)

We love new fresh content! Find some of our favorite links on this Unit topic below. If any links are expired, please let us know.

What do you know?

You can complete the following quiz to see if you truly understand this unit's content.