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.)