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Spanish Verb Mastery Tutorial: Ser vs. Estar


Spanish verbs Ser vs. Estar

This Spanish Verb Mastery Tutorial will tell you what you need to know to conjugate the Spanish verbs Ser vs. Estar in both the present and past tenses.

There are two verbs in Spanish which mean “to be”: ser and estar. They are used to describe a person, animal, or thing. Deciding between ser and estar while deciding between the preterit and the imperfect is a quadruple challenge. The imperfect is used to describe states or conditions in the past as opposed to events; therefore, the imperfect is frequently used for both ser and estar when dealing with the past tense.

Ser: permanent characteristics 

     “I am intelligent.” Soy inteligente.  

     “He used to be a teacher.” Él era profesor.

     “They are my friends.” Ellos son mis amigos.

     “It was three o’clock.” Eran las tres.

Estar: temporary conditions

     “She was here. Ella estuvo aquí.

     “Are you sad?” ¿Estás triste? 

Illness and Wellness:
     “Were you sick?” ¿Estaba Ud. enfermo?

Temporary situations:
     “I am on vacation.” Estoy de vacaciones.

Beginners are encouraged to follow the guidelines above, but be aware that both ser and estar can be used in certain cases. Estar uses time to qualify the description of the subject.  

     “You are beautiful.” Eres guapa. (inherent characteristic) 

      “You are beautiful.” Estás guapa. (you look beautiful today)

Below is a verb chart from The Spanish Verb Conjugator comparing ser and estar in the present and past tenses:

Related Spanish Verb Mastery Blog Posts:

The Two Most Essential Spanish Verbs: 'To be' or ..... 'To be'? That is The Question

The Two Most Essential Spanish Verbs Part 'Dos': Ser and Estar in the Past Tenses


(This tutorial was excerpted from The Spanish Verb Conjugator: The Beginner's Guide to Mastering Spanish Verbs. Copyright Roche Publishing.)