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Knowing Whether to Use Ser or Estar

Perhaps the most difficult part about using the Spanish verbs ser and estar correctly is choosing which one to use. When you encounter different types of being — unchanging essential being and being that changes depending on various conditions — trying to pigeonhole them as one or the other can be quite challenging.

Deciding when to use ser

You use the verb ser to describe the unchanging characteristics of a person, place, or thing, but what exactly does that mean? The following lists provide additional details to help you identify situations in which to use ser:

  • Origin and Nationality

    • Ella es de España. (She is from Spain.)

    • Ella es española. (She is Spanish.)

  • The Four P’s: Personality, Physical Attributes, Profession, and Possession

    • Él es divertido. (He is fun.)

    • Susana es baja. (Susana is short.)

    • Mi padre es un médico. (My father is a doctor.)

    • El carro azul es mío. (The blue car is mine.)

  • Date and Time

    • Hoy es el seis de enero. (Today is January 6th [the 6th of January].)

    • Son las nueve de la noche. (It is 9 p.m.)

  • Relationships

    • Ellos son mis padres. (They are my parents.)

    • Rafael es mi mejor amigo. (Rafael is my best friend.)

Deciding when to use estar

You use the verb estar to describe the changing characteristics of a person, place, or thing, but figuring out when that rule applies can be easier said than done. The following lists help you know when to use estar:

  • Location

    • Su casa está en la avenida Juárez. (Her house is on Juarez Avenue.)

    • El cine está cerca del centro. (The cinema is near the center of town.)

  • Mood and Physical Condition

    • El profesor está enojado. (The teacher is angry.)

    • Mi madre está emocionada. (My mother is excited.)

    • Los estudiantes están aburridos. (The students are bored.)

    • La señorita Martínez está enferma. (Miss Martinez is sick.)

  • Result of an Action

    • Los niños están de pie. (The children are standing.)

    • La audiencia está sentada. (The audience is seated.)

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