“Ser” or “Estar” in Spanish, which one should we use?


Much like te amo vs te quiero, one of the fine points of Spanish is deciding when to use “ser” or “estar” . Both verbs mean “to be”. If you Google “ser or estar” you will find 350 million pages in .29 seconds.

At this one site you will find the definition that I have copied below as well as lots of examples. You you can also check out the other sites for similar definitions and examples. In fact you can find abundant sources of information about grammatical issues, in most commonly studied languages, in less than a second, just by googling. But does it really matter.

Of course it does matter. We would all like to speak correctly. However if you confuse the two verbs,  “ser” and “estar”, you will still be perfectly well understood. On the other hand if you have a limited vocabulary, you won’t understand much of what people are saying and you won’t be able to say very much.

When I have a choice between perfection in grammar and a large vocabulary, I always  choose vocabulary. This does not mean that I don’t want to speak correctly and accurately, I do. I know that I can eventually achieve a high level of grammatical accuracy in the language that I’m studying. But I am in no hurry to get there. On the other hand I am usually driven to increase my vocabulary as fast as possible so that I can understand more interesting things that I want to listen to and read.

Ser is used with:

Elements pertinent to your or others’ identity

physical description, personality and character, nationality, race, gender, profession, origin, What things are made of

Things which “Take Place” or “Occur” in Time:

Dates, days, seasons, time, events, concerts, parties


Click here to Review Ser and to see more examples

Estar is used for States of Being

Emotional, physical & mental states of (our bodies’) being:

  • Feelings/moods/emotions, physical conditions or appearances, civil state (married, single, divorced, dead)

Placement State of Being:

  • Location of things and people (but not events)

Motion State of Being

Click here to Review Estar and to see more examples

Looking for new Spanish content? Check out this LingQ blog post to find a short story in Spanish for you!

How long does it take to learn Spanish? Check out Steve’s blog post to learn about the 5 factors that influence this!


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3 comments on ““Ser” or “Estar” in Spanish, which one should we use?


My native language is portuguese.

The “ser/estar” case in my language is basically the same of spanish. Still, that definition just confused me.

A good way to separate one from another is giving these two examples, I think:

I am here = Eu estou aqui.
I am me = Eu sou eu.

I am looking for someone = Eu estou procurando por alguém.
I am someone lookig for someone = Eu sou alguém procurando por alguém.

(these sentences are translated to portuguese, but ser and estar are used just the same way).

There are cases when the use of each verb can change the meaning of the sentence:

Eu sou feliz = I am happy. Constantly happy. That’s a permanent state.

Eu estou feliz = I am happy. I’m happy now at this very moment. I’m happy because I saw her, for example.

Victor Mendez

Hola mi querido Steve, como el ingles, siento que aplicar una regla gramatical en mi lengua el español es bastante dificil, yo que hablo español como lengua materna, podria resumir que “Ser” lo uso para definir mi identidad y “Estar” para definir una condicion o ubicacion que tenga. por ejemplo, “soy alto”, “soy delgado”, “soy” de Centro America, Etc. Etc. Y……………..”estoy” feliz “Estoy” triste, “estoy emocionado” Etc. como en otro idioma conocer como un nativo lo usa es mas práctico que conocer su regla. saludos

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