Spanish The Verb "Ser"

Overview

SER is used primarily in situations to imply permanence, equivalence, characteristics, origin, nature, identity and possession ("My apple IS bigger than his", "Quito IS in Ecuador", "Ice IS cold", "He IS French", "This car IS mine". SER is an irregular verb. You just need to memorize the form that goes with each pronoun.

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One of the most commonly used verbs in the English language is SER. In Spanish, we actually have two verbs that can mean “to be” and they are SER and ESTAR. First we’re just going to focus on SER

NOTE: The unchanged form of the verb is called the infinitiveThus, SER is the infinitive form of this verb.

In English, the verb to be is irregular in that we change “be” to different conjugations like “is,” “am,” and “are.” The verb “be” is also irregular in Spanish. Let’s take a look at the conjugations in the chart below. Remember from our previous lesson about subject pronouns (Subject Pronouns Unit) that memorizing where the subject pronouns “live” in this chart can be very helpful in your Spanish learning!

ser = to be

 soy somos
 eres sois
 es son 

A closer look…

Here is the same verb conjugation chart but it is now showing the pronouns that go with the verbs and their meaning in English.

 yo soy = I am nosotros (as) somos = we are
 tú eres = you (informal) are vosotros (as) sois = you all (Spain) are
 él es = he is  ella es = she is  usted es = you (formal  are) ellos son = they (masculine) are  ellas son = they (feminine) are  ustedes son = you all (Latin America) are

How do I know when to use ser versus estar?

We use ser in more permanent situations versus the temporary ones when we use estar. We will dive more in depth on this topic in our upcoming estar lesson but for now remember these few tips on when to use ser:

  • Telling time (Ex: Son las siete y media de la noche.)
  • Expressing the date (Ex: Hoy es martes.)
  • Description (Ex: La niña es muy pequeña.)
  • Occupation (Ex: Mis padres son doctores.)
  • Origin (where someone is from) (Ex: Elena es de Argentina.)
  • Possession (Ex: Este mochila es de Juan.)

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.