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Lesson 4: Assignment

What is the Difference Between Ser & Estar in Spanish?

Notice the difference. The Spanish verb "ser" is used to describe things that never change and "estar" is used to describe things that can change.

"Estar" Conjugation

"To Be" in Spanish

Remember that in English, the verb "to be" can be conjugated into things like "I am," "he is," or "we are." In Spanish, this is also the case. This makes learning the verb "to be" incredibly important.

In Spanish, "ser" and "estar" both mean "to be." Although this might seem tricky at first, you simply have to understand what the difference is between these two words.

  • Ser is used for permanent things.
  • Estar is used for temporary things.

Things to Know When Using "To Be"

When you are saying "I am," "he is," "we are," etc. in Spanish, you need to make sure to keep these two things in mind:

blue star icon Know if the situation is permanent or temporary so that you know whether to use "ser" or "estar."

blue star icon And just like any other verb, you must conjugate the verb "to be" so that it agrees with the noun it refers to.

If you are confused, don't panic. Let's make it simple and start with "estar" (the impermanent version of the verb "to be.")

Try Using "Estar"

Here are a few example phrases that use the verb "estar." Notice that these examples are all talking about things that can change. (That's why we are using the verb estar and not ser for these phrases.)

*Notice how "feliz" becomes "felices" when talking about "estamos." This is because adjectives always have to match up with the plurality of the noun. Also notice that the "z" changes to a "c." This is because there is a rule in Spanish that says when the word ends in a "z" you have to change the "z" to a "c" and add "es" when you make it plural.

big smile

When to Use the "Estar" Version of "To Be"

"Estar" is the form of "to be" that should be used when you are talking about things that can change.

Examples of impermanent things might include emotions or where something is located. For example. If you were to say "The camera is in the kitchen," then "estar" would be used, because the camera could be moved to another location at any time. Therefore it would be said "La cámara está  en la cocina."

Asking Questions Using the Verb "To Be"

When the verb "to be" is used as a question in a phrase, you simply use the conjugated form of the verb. So, that means that phrases like "are you...?" and "you are..." are said exactly the same way in Spanish. The only way you can tell that one is a question and the other is a statement, is by seeing the question mark (if it is in writing) or through the tone of your voice (if it is in person.)

This might seem hard to get used to at first, since statements and questions are said differently in English. This is how it works though: "estás" in Spanish could either mean "you are" or "are you?" The same rule is applied to all of the other verb forms as well. If I want to say "How is he?" I would say "¿Cómo está él? " (How he is?)

"Ser" Conjugation

I am
Yo soy
You are (informal)
Tú eres
You are (formal)
Usted es
He/she is
Él/ella es
They are
Ellos son
You guys are
Ustedes son
We are
Nosotros somos

Using "ser," try to translate these phrases:

We are men
Nosotros somos hombres
She is a woman
Ella es una mujer
You are American
Tú eres Americano
I am Hispanic
Yo soy Hispano

When to Use the "Ser" Version of "To Be"

"Ser" is the form of "to be" that should be used when you are talking about things that never change. Some good examples of permanent things are: ethnicity, gender, identity, occupation, and where you are from. And although time does seem temporary, it is actually considered permanent since it is an ongoing thing. We will learn more about telling time in Spanish when we get to lesson 19.

Lesson 4 Vocabulary Words

New Spanish Vocabulary!

Here is your new vocabulary list to study from. These words are mostly adjectives. They fit well with the words you already know, so you can start to form useful sentences. Study this list the best you can so you have a better chance of passing the upcoming test for this lesson.


Saying "There is" or "There are"

When you are saying "is" as in "there is" or "there are," you should always use the word "hay."

there is/are
There is an apple there
Hay una manzana allí
There are some apples there
Hay unas manzanas allí

Saying "—of the—" or "—from the—"

The word "de" means "of" or "from" in Spanish. If we are translating a phrase with the words "—of the—" to Spanish, we could say "—de la—" if we are talking about a feminine subject. But when we are talking about a masculine subject, then we have to use the masculine version of the word "the" which is "el." Any time that "de" is used together with "el" in Spanish, then it becomes compressed together to form the contraction: "del."

star icon (de + el = del)

In other words, "del" and "de la" both mean "of the" (or "from the") but one is masculine and the other is feminine. Keep an eye out for this because you will see an example of this coming right up.


Small Change, Huge Difference!

Although these words look almost exactly the same, the accent marks above each letter in the word makes a big difference. Here are the two most common incidents that you should be aware of.

  • = yes
  • si = if
  • qué = what
  • que = that

"Ser" and "Estar" Practice Phrases

"Ser" and "Estar" Quiz

Translate the following phrases to Spanish.


  ser and estar quiz answer key

Review Spanish Lesson 4 »

Last updated: 2017

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