Ser vs Estar – How to Never Confuse Them Again

Spanish is considered a relatively easy language to learn. It is quite similar to English in terms of structure, vocabulary, and grammar patterns. Most things can be translated in a straightforward way. 

However, once in a while Spanish learners will stumble upon something tricky and surprising.

Like the verbs “ser” vs. “estar”, both of which translate as “to be”.  

Why on earth would you need two verbs to express the same idea?!

I feel your pain, but you must understand that to native speakers of Spanish “ser” and “estar” are two very different ideas.

When to Use the Verb “SER” in Spanish

The verb “ser” normally appears in the context of permanency and describes ideas that are hard or impossible to change.  

Use the verb “ser” when talking about:

  • facts
  • permanent or long-term states or conditions (nationality, occupation, nature, etc.)
  • physical characteristics such as shape, color, texture, etc.  
  • climate
  • possessions
  • seasons, dates, months, days of the week, and time

On the other hand, the verb “estar” tends to be connected to more temporary and changeable ideas. 

Estar” often describes: 

  • temporary situations, conditions, or states
  • feelings and emotions
  • location
  • current weather
  • price
  • actions carried out in a particular moment in the present, past, and future. 

permanent vs. temporary
intrinsic vs extrinsic

When to Use SER in Spanish – Examples

In case you are not totally sure which ideas can be classified as “permanent”, have a look at the set of examples below. 

Hopefully, they will shed more light on when and how to use the verb “ser”.

But before we start, do we all remember how to conjugate it in the present tense?

Present conjugation of the verb “ser” 

(yo) soy
(tú) eres
(él) / (ella) / (usted) es
(nosotros) somos
(vosotros) sois
(ellos) / (ellas) / (ustedes) son


We use the verb “to be” to describe scientific or everday facts:

🇪🇸 El símbolo quimico de oro es Au. 
🇬🇧 The chemical symbol of gold is Au. 

🇪🇸 El Nilo es el río más largo del mundo. 
🇬🇧 The Nile is the longest river in the world. 

🇪🇸 Ellos son mis padres. 
🇬🇧 They are my parents. 

🇪🇸 Madrid es la capital de España.
🇬🇧 Madrid is the capital of Spain. 

🇪🇸 Los dos somos muy altos.  
🇬🇧 Both of us are very tall. 

Permanent or Extended States or Conditions

You will also need the verb “ser” when making reference to permanent or extended states:

🇪🇸 Juan es mi vecino. – extended condition
🇬🇧 Juan is my neighbor. 

🇪🇸 Soy extranjero. – origin / nationality
🇬🇧 I’m a foreigner. 

🇪🇸 Ella es Ana. – name / last name
🇬🇧 This is Ana.

🇪🇸 (Vosotros) sois muy inteligentes. – permanent characteristic
🇬🇧 You (plural) are very intelligent.

Physical Characteristics

Whenever you speak about what something or someone is like, the verb “ser” will come in handy. 

🇪🇸 La mesa es redonda. – shape
🇬🇧 The table is round.

🇪🇸 Tu pelo es liso. – texture
🇬🇧 Your hair is straight. 

🇪🇸 Esta chaqueta es azul. – color
🇬🇧 This jacket is blue. 

🇪🇸 Test Your Spanish Knowledge 🇪🇸

🇪🇸 Esta camisa es de algodón – material
🇬🇧 Your hair is straight. 


What is climate? Is the average weather in a specific region averaged over a long period of time. Therefore, you’ll also need the verb “ser” to describe it. 

🇪🇸 El clima acá es muy húmedo.
🇬🇧 The climate here is very humid.

🇪🇸 Los inviernos es esta zona son muy fríos. 
🇬🇧 Winters in this zone are very cold. 

🇪🇸 El desierto de Atacama es muy seco.
🇬🇧 The Atacama desert is very dry. 


“Whose is it?” is a common question we ask when we want to know who something belongs to. In Spanish, this context requires you to use the verb “ser”. 

🇪🇸 Esta casa es mía. 
🇬🇧 This house is mine.

🇪🇸 ¿De quién son estos zapatos?
🇬🇧 Whose shoes are these?

🇪🇸 Lo siento pero este es mi asiento.
🇬🇧 Sorry but this is my seat.

Numbers, Dates, Months, Days of The Week, And Time

Whenever you talk about seasons, dates, months, days of the week, or time in Spanish,  consider them as facts. And as such, they should be accompanied by the verb “ser”. 

🇪🇸 Dos más dos es cuatro.
🇬🇧 Two plus two is four. 

🇪🇸 Hoy es lunes.
🇬🇧 Today is Monday.

🇪🇸 ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños?
🇬🇧 When is your birthday?

🇪🇸 Son las siete y media de la trade.
🇬🇧 It’s half-past seven PM.

🇪🇸 ¡Ya es octubre!
🇬🇧 It is October already!

🇪🇸 Qué pena que ya es invierno.
🇬🇧 What a bummer it is winter already. 

🇪🇸 ¿Qué hora es?
🇬🇧 What time is it?

When to Use ESTAR in Spanish – examples

Now that we have analyzed different uses of “ser”, it is time for us to deal with its twin brother: the verb “estar”. 

Once again, let’s start by reviewing its conjugation in the present tense:

Present conjugation of the verb “ser” 

(yo) estoy
(tú) estás
(él) / (ella) / (usted) está
(nosotros) estamos
(vosotros) estáis
(ellos) / (ellas) / (ustedes) están

If you want to use the Spanish “estar” like a native, keep in mind its main characteristic, which is transience. Use this verb whenever you are describing something temporary and changeable. 

Have a look at the examples below: 

Temporary Situations or Conditions

Today you may be sick, but you’ll feel better tomorrow. 

Your house might be messy at this moment, but you’ll clean it and it’ll become tidy again. 

Food may be hot, but after a few moments it will cool down. 

All of these are temporary states, which require the use of “estar” in Spanish. 

🇪🇸 Mi mamá está muy enferma.
🇬🇧 My mom is very sick. 

🇪🇸 Estos zapatos están muy desgastados. 
🇬🇧 These shoes are very wornout. 

🇪🇸 ¡Cuidado! El plato está caliente!
🇬🇧 Be careful! The dish is very hot!

🇪🇸 Estamos en primavera. 
🇬🇧 (literally) We are in spring. 

🇪🇸 La casa está muy desordenada.
🇬🇧 The house is very messy. 

🇪🇸 ¿Porqué estáis tan sucios?
🇬🇧 Why are you (plural) so filthy?

Feelings And Emotions

People are fickle and our emotions and mood can change relatively quickly. Hence, the verb “estar” should be used when describing them in Spanish. 

🇪🇸 ¿Cómo está tu abuela?
🇬🇧 How is your grandma? 

🇪🇸 Hoy estoy muy contenta, porqué recibí una buena noticia. 
🇬🇧 Today I am very happy because I got some good news.

🇪🇸 Susana está muy enojada. 
🇬🇧 Susana is very angry. 

🇪🇸 ¿Estás preocupado por algo?
🇬🇧 Are you worried about something?

🇪🇸 Estamos muy decepcionados con los resultados.
🇬🇧 We are very disappointed with the results. 

🇪🇸 Los niños están súper cansados después de la carrera. 
🇬🇧 The kids are super tired after the race. 


Whenever talking about where someone or something is, make sure to apply the verb “estar” and not “ser”. 

🇪🇸 Madrid está en España. 
🇬🇧 Madrid is in Spain. 

🇪🇸 El gato está bajo la mesa. 
🇬🇧 The cat is under the table. 

🇪🇸 Mi casa está en la esquina de la calle Bulnes con Baquedano.  
🇬🇧 My house is at the corner of Bulnes and Baquedano street. 

🇪🇸 ¿Sabes dónde están mis zapatos?
🇬🇧 Do you know where my shoes are?

🇪🇸 Alex y Juan están en una fiesta. 
🇬🇧 Alex and Juan are at a party. 

🇪🇸 Tu celular debe estar en la cartera. 
🇬🇧 Your cell phone must be in your handbag. 

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde estáis?
🇬🇧 Where are you (plural)? 

🇪🇸 Esta ciudad está muy lejos de acá.
🇬🇧 This city is very far from here. 

Current Weather

As opposed to climate, the weather is a changeable condition. The verb “estar” should be your choice when you describe it. 

🇪🇸 Hoy está soleado. 
🇬🇧 It is sunny today. 

🇪🇸 El cielo está despejado. 
🇬🇧 The sky is clear. 

🇪🇸 No está lloviendo. 
🇬🇧 It is not raining. 

🇪🇸 El viento está muy fuerte. 
🇬🇧 The wind is very strong. 

🇪🇸 La temperatura hoy está baja. 
🇬🇧 The temperature today is low. 


Use “estar” whenever you want to ask how much a product is. The same verb will be helpful when talking about such occasional situations as special offers and discounts. 

🇪🇸 ¿A cómo están las manzanas?
🇬🇧 How much are the apples?

🇪🇸 Los tomates están a cien pesos el kilo. 
🇬🇧 A kilogram of tomatoes is hundred pesos. 

🇪🇸 Hoy este abrigo está a mitad de precio. 
🇬🇧 Today this coat is half the price. 

🇪🇸 Los productos con la etiqueta amarilla están con 20% de descuento. 
🇬🇧 The products with the yellow label are with a 20% discount. 


🇪🇸 Estos zapatos son muy caros. a fact or a permanent characteristic
🇬🇧 These shoes are very expensive. 

🇪🇸 Colombia es más barato que Chile. – another fact
🇬🇧 Colombia is cheaper than Chile

Actions Carried Out At a Particular Moment 

If you are talking about things that are happening or actions that people are performing at a given moment, use the verb “estar” with gerundio (the equivalent of the -ING form). 

🇪🇸 ¿Qué estás haciendo?
🇬🇧 What are you doing?

🇪🇸 Los niños están jugando afuera. 
🇬🇧 The kids are playing outside.

🇪🇸 Estamos haciendo la tarea. 
🇬🇧 We’re doing homework. 

🇪🇸 ¿Qué estais cocinando?
🇬🇧 What are you (plural) cooking?

The same rule applies to actions happening at a given time in the past or future.

🇪🇸 Ayer a las diez de la noche estaba viendo televisión. 
🇬🇧 Last night at 10 PM I was watching TV. 

🇪🇸 Mañana a esta hora estaremos llegando a Madrid. 
🇬🇧 Tomorrow at this time we will be arriving at Madrid. 

🇪🇸 ¡En dos días más estarás celebrando tu cumpleaños!
🇬🇧 In two more days, you will be celebrating your birthday!

Ser and Estar Complete Conjugation Table

Depending on your level of Spanish, you might be familiar with more complex grammar patterns. 

No matter if you are using the subjunctive or the conditional form, pretérito indefinido, perfecto, or imperfecto – the essential difference between “ser” and “estar” remains intact. 

As long as you master all the necessary conjugations, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use “ser” and “estar” with the same confidence as in the present tense. 

Presentyo soy
tú eres
él es
nosotros somos
vosotros sois
ellos son
yo estoy
tú estás
él está
nosotros estamos
vosotros estáis
ellos están
Futureyo seré
tú serás
él será
nosotros seremos
vosotros series
ellos serán
yo estaré
tú estarás
él stará
nosotros estaremos
vosotros estareis
ustedes estarán
Pretérito indefinidoyo fui
tú fuiste
él fue
nosotros fuimos
vosotros fuisteis
ellos fueron
yo estuve
tú estuviste
él estuvo
nosotros estuvimos
vosotros estuvisteis
ellos estuvieron
Past Participlesidoestado
Present subjunctiveyo sea
tú seas
él sea
nosotros seamos
vosotros seáis
ellos sean
yo esté
tú estés
él esté
nosostros estemos
vosotros estéis
ellos estén
Past subjunctiveyo fuera / fuese
tú fueras / fueses
él fuera / fuese
nosotros fuéramos / fuésemos
vosotros fuerais / fuesais
ellos fueran / fuesen
yo estuviera / estuviese
tú estuvieras / estuvieses
él estuviera / estuviese
nosotros estuviéramos / estuviésemos
vosotros estuvierais / estuvieseis
ellos estuvieran / estuviesen

Here’s a bunch of ideas to get you started:

🇪🇸 Cuando niño (yo) era muy tímido. 
🇬🇧 I was very timid as a child. 

🇪🇸 El año pasado fui el mejor jugador de mi equipo. 
🇬🇧 Last year I was the best player of my team 

🇪🇸 ¡Ojalá fuera veinte años más joven! 
🇬🇧 I wish I was twenty years younger!

🇪🇸 ¡No seas tan arrogante!
🇬🇧 Don’t be so arrogant!

🇪🇸 No quiero que estés triste. 
🇬🇧 I don’t want you to be sad. 

🇪🇸 La fiesta estuvo entretenida. 
🇬🇧 The party was fun. 

🇪🇸 Siempre serás mi mejor amigo. 
🇬🇧 You’ll always be my best friend. 

🇪🇸 Si estuviese en tu situación, renunciaría a este trabajo.  
🇬🇧 If I were in your position, I’d quit this job. 

🇪🇸 Ha sido un largo día. 
🇬🇧 It has been a long day.

🇪🇸 Hemos estado esperando este momento por mucho tiempo. 
🇬🇧 We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. 

🇪🇸 Estás siendo muy injusto. 
🇬🇧 You are being very unfair. 

🇪🇸 No se soluciona nada estando enojado. 
🇬🇧 Nothing gets solved by being angry. 

Ser vs Estar in Passive Voice

Those of you who are familiar with the Spanish passive voice (la voz pasiva) might feel confused by the fact that in some cases it requires the verb “ser” and in other cases – the verb “estar”. 

For instance, you are going to say:

🇪🇸 América fue descubierta por Cristobal Colón. 
🇬🇧 America was discovered by Christopher Colombus. 

but, on the other hand, you’ll use the verb “estar” here:

🇪🇸 El libro está escrito en español. 
🇬🇧 El libro is written in Spanish. 

Before you start getting frustrated, here is a simple explanation:

With “ser” the verbs in past participle refer to ACTIONS. 

With “estar” these participles act like ADJECTIVES and their role is to show certain QUALITY of the noun they are describing. 


🇪🇸 Su encomienda aún no ha sido entregada. 
🇬🇧 Your parcel has not been delivered yet. 

🇪🇸 Nuestra empresa será auditada este mes.  
🇬🇧 Our company will be audited this month. 

🇪🇸 Mi postulación fue rechazada. 
🇬🇧 My application was refused. 

🇪🇸 Los archivos antiguos fueron borrados. 
🇬🇧 The old files were erased. 


🇪🇸 Esta canción está dedicada a mi marido. 
🇬🇧 This song is dedicated to my husband. 

🇪🇸 Este chaleco está hecho de lana. 
🇬🇧 This sweater is made of wool. 

🇪🇸 Las luces estaban apagadas cuando llegamos. 
🇬🇧 The lights were out when we arrived. 

🇪🇸 ¿Estás vestida ya?
🇬🇧 Are you dressed yet?

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Joanna Lupa
Joanna Lupa
Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.

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