The Differences between "ser" and "estar"

Beginner Spanish - Level A1

Overview

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.

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Spanish A1

 

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SER vs. ESTAR

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
    OR
  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
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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)

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