8. Ser and Estar


"Ser" and "estar" probably are the most common and used verbs in Spanish.

Both of them are translated as "to be", here is the problem, so, how can we know when to use "ser" or "estar"?. In this lesson, we will pay attention to this difference only, in the next lessons we will learn each verb individually and their uses.

There is a rule, more less accurate for almost all the cases, also like everytime in grammar there are exceptions too.

As general rule "ser" is used in permanent situations or states and "estar" in temporal / transitional situations or states. For example if I say "Juan es de Oviedo / John is from Oviedo" it means he was born there and will be forever (Permanent), on the other hand, if I say "Juan está en Oviedo / John is in Oviedo" it means that John is now in Oviedo, may be for tourism, job, studies or wahtever reason, but this situation (being in oviedo) can change at every moment (Temporal).

Let's see some examples.

Yo soy alejandro
I am Alejandro

Yo estoy en Barcelona
I am in Barcelona

Did you notice the difference?, in english the same verb is used, "I am ...", but in Spanish you have to use 2 different verbs.

Now let's see another example, in this case we will se how a word, in this case "malo", changes the meaning depending on the verb used.

El niño es malo
The child is bad (naughty)

El niño está malo
The child is sick

Probably at this point you feel a little bit lost, don't worry, it is normal, in the next lessons you will learn how to use "ser" and "estar" and differentiate them to know which one you have to use a any time.

beans = fréjoles

cathedral = catedral