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Conjugating the Irregular Spanish Verb Estar (to Be)

Spanish verbs fall into different groups, and each group is conjugated a little differently. If you’re going to master Spanish verbs like estar, you need to be able to identify which group a verb belongs to: regular (follows regular conjugation rules for -ar, -er, and -ir verbs), stem-changing (morphs depending on how you use it in a sentence), spelling-changing (has consonant-spelling changes in some forms to follow pronunciation rules), or reflexive (reflects the action back on the subject of the sentence).

But then there are those verbs that refuse to be lumped into a category: the irregulars. Estar (ehs-tahr) (to be) is an irregular -ar verb; it doesn’t follow most normal ending patterns, so your best bet is to just memorize its conjugation. Here it is in the present tense; note that four of the forms have required accent marks:

The Present Tense of Estar
Conjugation Translation
yo estoy I am
tú estás You (informal) are
él/ella/ello/uno está He/she/one is
usted está You (formal) are
nosotros estamos We are
vosotros estáis You all (informal) are
ellos/ellas están They are
ustedes están You all (formal) are

The following examples show you estar in action:

  • Nosotros estamos en el cine. (We are at the cinema.)

  • Ella está triste. (She is sad.)

In the preterit, estar has an irregular stem: estuv-. Notice also that it doesn’t have the accent marks regular verbs use in the preterit. Take a look:

The Preterit Tense of Estar
Conjugation Translation
yo estuve I was
tú estuviste You (informal) were
él/ella/ello/uno estuvo He/she/one was
usted estuvo You (formal) were
nosotros estuvimos We were
vosotros estuvisteis You all (informal) were
ellos/ellas estuvieron They were
ustedes estuvieron You all (formal) were

You use the preterit tense like this:

  • ¿Estuviste en tu casa ayer? (Were you at home yesterday?)

  • Si. Estuve en casa todo el día. (Yes. I was home all day long.)

You’re off the hook in the imperfect and future forms; estar conjugates normally in these tenses. Check out the following tables and examples.

The Imperfect Tense of Estar
Conjugation Translation
yo estaba I used to be
tú estabas You (informal) used to be
él/ella/ello/uno estaba He/she/one used to be
usted estaba You (formal) used to be
nosotros estábamos We used to be
vosotros estabais You all (informal) used to be
ellos/ellas estaban They used to be
ustedes estaban You all (formal) used to be

Here are some examples of the imperfect tense:

  • ¿Estaban ustedes acostumbrados a leer? (Were you used to reading?)

  • Si. Estábamos acostumbrados a leer. (Yes. We were used to reading.)

The Future Tense of Estar
Conjugation Translation
yo estaré I will be
tú estarás You (informal) will be
él/ella/ello/uno estará He/she/one will be
usted estará You (formal) will be
nosotros estaremos We will be
vosotros estaréis You all (informal) will be
ellos/ellas estarán They will be
ustedes estarán You all (formal) will be

The following samples put the future tense to work:

  • ¿Estarás listo para salir? (Will you be ready to go out?)

  • Sí. Estaré listo para salir. (Yes. I will be ready to go out.)

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