Spanish Verbs "ser" and "estar"


Ser, like estar, means "to be". However, where estar is used to indicate a temporary condition or location, ser is used to identify permanent conditions or lasting attributes. Specifically, ser is used to communication descriptions of persons and things, orgins of persons or things, and time.


These are defining qualities, characteristics and attributes of a person or thing that aren't likely to change over time. Descriptions may include physical characteristics, personality traits, names, religions, occupations, and relationships with others (ie. aunt, uncle, friend, etc.) Read and listen to the following examples.

I want to be your friend.
Quiero ser tu amigo.
I am John.
Yo soy Juan.
You are my best friend.
eres mi mejor amiga.
You are a foreigner.
Usted es un extranjero.
John is very intelligent, friendly and daring.
Juan es muy inteligente, amable, y atrevido.
She is very beautiful.
Ella es muy hermosa.
We are your cousins.
Somos sus primos.
They are your enemies.
Son sus enemigos


Origin refers to the place a person comes from or the material something is made out of. When we use ser to describe the origin of an object or a person, it is permanent. Read and listen to each of the examples below, then repeat each one out loud.

Juan is from Mexico.
Juan es de Méjico
The tables are made of wood.
Las mesas son de madera.


The Spanish verb ser is used to identify, describe and communicate time, including hours, days, and dates. When telling time es is used for one o'clock and son is used for all other hours. Read and listen to each of the examples below, then repeat each one out loud.

Today is Thursday.
Hoy es Jueves.
Yesterday was my sister's birthday.
Ayer fue el cumpleaños de mi hermana.
It is one thirty.
Es la una y media.
It is 5 o'clock in the evening.
Son las cinco de la tarde.
What time is it?
¿Qué hora es?
What day is today?
¿Qué día es hoy?


Estar, like ser, means "to be". However, where ser is used to indicate permanent characteristics, descriptions, origin and time, estar is used to indicate temporary conditions or locations.


Locations include where something is located physically, or it may be a physical position or posture. The location may be temporary, permanent, or conceptual. Read and listen to each of the examples of "estar" below, then repeat each example out loud.

Where are you?
¿Dónde estás?
I'm in the kitchen.
Estoy en la cocina.
He is sitting down.
Él está sentado.
We are at the movies right now and we will be at the restaurant in 30 minutes.
Estamos en el cine ahora y estaremos en el restaurante en 30 minutos.
Your girlfriend is out of it.
Su novia está en la luna.

Estar is used to indicate location with one exception. To indicate the location of a party or event you use ser, not estar. Read and listen to the following example, then repeat it out loud.

The party is at the hotel.
La fiesta es en el hotel.


Estar is used to indicate physical, mental, and emotional states. These are conditions that are likely to change over hours, days or even years. Read and listen to the examples below, then repeat each one out loud.

I am so tired right now.
Estoy tan cansado ahora mismo.
My husband is sick.
Mi esposo está enfermo.
My mother in law is a bit crazy.
Mi suegra está un poco loca.
I am very sad today.
Estoy muy triste hoy.
How is the food?
¿Cómo está la sopa?
How are you?
¿Cómo estás tú?
I am eating pizza.
Estoy comiendo pizza.
The soup is cold.
La sopa está fría.

When the Spanish verbs "to be" (ser or estar) are followed by an adjective, the choice of verb can completely change the meaning of the adjective – and sentence. Consider the following examples. Listen to each one, then repeat each out loud.

The teacher is bored.
El maestro está aburrido.
The teacher is boring.
El maestro es aburrido.

The verb estar is also commonly used in idiomatic expressions. The following are just a few. Listen to each expression, then repeat it out loud.

to be in agreement
estar de acuerdo
to be standing
estar de pie
to be on the way
estar de camino