differences between ser and estar

The distinction between the verbs ser and estar is one of the biggest problems for foreign learners. Especially because many languages only use one verb while we use two. It is usually explained that we use ser to express permanent characteristics and estar for transitory ones, but this motto has several exceptions. Thus, at 2DayLanguages we prefer to give you different keys to learn the difference between ser and estar.

The difference between ser and estar – uses

  We use the verb ser to:

  • Talk about an occupation, that is, the job we have held for a long time or the employ for what we have studied. For example: soy profesor, mi padre es cocinero or Madonna es cantante.
  • We also use serto express nationalities (soy español, soy de España) and religions (no soy cristiano, ni budista, ni musulmán).
  • We use serto describe, both physically and psychologically: Juan es guapo y muy simpático.
  • Another use of this verb is to identify when we have more than one option and want to talk about one of them. We see it in the following examples: “Comía” es pretérito imperfecto; esa es mi hermana; este dedo es el meñique.
  • We use it when we refer to eventsthat are not permanent (such us weddings, parties, exams…). For example: la boda es en la catedralel examen es en el aula verde; o el congreso es en Valencia.
  • With dates, hours, parts of the day…: es 23 de enero; es la una de la tarde; son las tres; es verano; es por la tarde; hoy es jueves… We need the third person of singular and plural (esson).
  • With serwe can express time as well: es tarde, es pronto, es temprano.
  • Finally, we show you that we can express general assessments with the verb ser, it is opinions shared by everyone. For example: para aprender un idioma es bueno practicar con nativos.

Now we explain when we can use the verb estar:

  • To talk about locationsLa escuela de español 2dayLanguages está en Valencia.
  • To express physicalconditions or moods, such as how we are doing in that moment or how we feel. For example: Lina está preocupada porque mañana tiene que hacer el examen DELE.
  • We also use estarwith dates, but with some differences regarding the verb  We can say: estamos a jueves; estamos en primavera estamos a 24 de julio. We generally use the first person of the plural (estamos) followed by the prepositions “a” or “en”. It is also possible the third person of the plural (en Brasil ahora están en invierno).
  • Furthermore, it is possible to express transitory activities(changing ones) with this verb: Mi jefe está de vacaciones (just for a week) or En Valencia estamos disfrutando del sol.
  • If we use serfor general assessments, estar is employed for personal assessments. Here is an example: este bacalao está demasiado salado (this sentence is the result of a reflexion, we have tried the cod and it was too salty for us, but someone else might like it).
  • To describe the result or effect of an action. If this action is to close the door, the result would be: la puerta está cerrada. If what we have done is to fill a glass of water, we can say: el vaso está lleno.

With these explanations and examples we hope you understand the difference between ser and estar better and you do not commit mistakes when you use them again. And if you want to learn more Spanish, you only need to be attentive to our blog or just come to visit us at our school and you will be able to properly say : “¡Estoy en Valencia!”


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