Ser vs Estar
Language Resources

Deciding whether to use ser or estar - both meaning "to be" in English - is an issue that often causes quite a bit of confusion for people learning Spanish. After all, both of them translate into English as roughly the same thing, but they are used in different ways to express different things.

For example:

Estar + aburrido.I am bored.
Ser + aburrido. I am boring.

When to use "SER"

Generally, "ser" is used if the adjective following is an unchanging characteristic of the person, thing or place that you are describing. It is used:

  • to express physical description, personality traits, profession, nationality, race, gender, etc.
    • Es muy delgada. (She is very thin.)
    • Son profesores en la universidad. (They are professors at the university.)
    • Es inteligente. (He is intelligent.)
    • Somos muy altos. (We are very tall.)
    • Es española. (She is Spanish.)
    • Son de España. (They are from Spain.)
    • Es mujer. (She is a woman.)
  • to express dates, days, seasons, time, when events "take place"
    • Hoy es lunes. (Today is Monday.)
    • Es verano. (It is summer.)
    • Son las 4 de la tarde. (It is 4:00 in the afternoon.)
    • El concierto fue ayer. (The concert was yesterday.)
  • to express what something is made of
    • Mi camisa es de algodón. (My shirt is made of cotton.)
    • La casa es de madera. (The house is made of wood.)
  • to express possession
    • El libro es de mi padre. (The book is my father's.)
    • El perro es mío. (The dog is mine.)
    • Son de la misma familia. (They are of the same family.)

When to use "ESTAR"

In general, we use "estar" to describe a mood, appearance or state of being. It is used:

  • to express feelings/emotions, physical conditions, civil status
    • Estoy aburrido en el trabajo. (I am bored at work.)
    • Hoy están muy tristes. (Today they are very sad.)
    • La mosca está muerta. (The fly is dead.)
    • Mi tí está embarazada. (My aunt is pregnant.)
    • Mi hermano está casado. (My brother is married.)
  • to express the location of people or things (not events)
    • La revista está en de la mesa. (The magazine is on the table.)
    • La fuente está en el parque. (The fountain is in the park.)
    • Ahora mismo están en California. (Right now they are in California.)
    • Estamos en el coche. (We are in the car.)
  • with the Spanish progressive tenses (in English, "to be" + verb-ing)
    • Estamos bajando las escaleras. (We are going down the stairs.)
    • Están intentando estudiar. (They are trying to study.)
    • Está conduciendo. (She is driving.)
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