Spanish Verb Estar To Be: Spanish Lesson 9

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is the ninth lesson in our beginner-level Spanish course and we will look at the Spanish verb Estar To Be.

Earlier in this course, we saw the Spanish verb Ser (Yo soy: I am. Tú eres: You are. Él/Ella es: He/She is) which is also the verb To Be.

In Spanish, there are two versions of the verb To be (Ser & Estar) when in English there is only one verb To be (I am, You are, He/She is).

Ser and Estar are fundamental to the Spanish language and from now on in the course, we will be using both Ser and Estar.

Spanish verb Estar Conjugation

(Yo) Estoy: I am
(Tú) Estás: You are
(Él/Ella) Está: He/She is
(Nosotros) Estamos: We are
(Vosotros) Estáis: You are
(Ellos/Ellas) Están: They are

Spanish verb Ser Conjugation

(Yo) Soy: I am
(Tú) Eres: You are
(Él/Ella) Es: He/She is
(Nosotros) Somos: We are
(Vosotros) Sois: You are
(Ellos/Ellas) Son: They are

Spanish Verb Estar To Be Spanish Lesson 9

As you can see, both Ser and Estar appear to mean the same thing,  the verb To Be.

However, we use one or the other depending on the sentence.

When to use “ser”

Generally speaking, Ser is used when describing permanent things.

It is important to be clear on when to use Ser. Let’s look in more detail what situation should be used in:

Physical description
Time and dates

Ser Example sentences:

Soy Pedro: I am Pedro
Soy hombre: I am a man
Soy de España: I am from Spain
Soy médico: I am a doctor
Soy alto y moreno: I am tall and dark
Soy honesto y trabajador: I am honest and hard working

When to use “estar”

Estar is used when describing temporary things.

Let’s look in more detail when to use Estar:

Temporary condition

Estar example sentences:

Estoy en Londres: I am in London
Estoy contento pero cansado: I am happy but tired
Estoy de vacaciones: I am on holiday

Two verbs To be!!! A challenge, but you can do it!

Having two verbs To Be to contend with is one of the trickier parts of learning Spanish for English speakers.

When you just have one equivalent verb To Be in your own language and are only just starting out learning a new one, it is a challenge for sure to process two different verbs translating to the same thing.

Most students, however, get the hang of Ser and Estar fairly quickly.

Getting a feel for Ser applying mainly to ‘permanent’ descriptions and Estar applying mainly to ‘non-permanent’ descriptions helps distinguish the two verbs.

Spanish Verb Estar To Be is not only for non-permanent descriptions

We must be careful, though, as Estar is not always only used with non-permanent descriptions.

We use Estar rather than Ser when describing location, even when a location is permanent.

For example:

Estoy en el restaurante: I am in the restaurant
Madrid está en el centro de España: Madrid is in the centre of Spain

The first sentence follows the general rule of Estar being used when describing something that is temporary: ‘I am in the restaurant’, but I won’t always be in the restaurant.

The second sentence, however, describes Madrid being in the centre of Spain, which is a permanent location. Madrid is not going to move.

Therefore, we must always be careful to remember that with any kind of locations we always use the verb Estar rather than the verb Ser.

Let’s see an example conversation (two friends talking by telephone) illustrating the different uses of Estar:

Ana: Hola Juan, ¿cómo estás?: Ana: Hi Juan, how are you?
Juan: Estoy bien Ana. ¿Y tú? ¿Dónde estás, hace mucho ruido?: Juan: I’m fine Ana. And you? Where are you, it’s very noisy?
Ana: Estoy en un pueblo que se llama Marchena. Hay un festival. Toda la gente está muy feliz, comiendo, bebiendo y bailando: Ana: I’m in a town called Marchena. There is a festival. All the people are very happy, eating, drinking, and dancing.
Juan: ¡Suena genial Ana! ¿Dónde está Marchena?: Juan: That sounds great Ana! Where is Marchena?
Ana: Marchena está en Andalucía. Cerca de Sevilla: Ana: Marchena is in Andalusia. Near Sevilla.
Juan: ¿Hace calor?: Juan: Is it hot?
Ana: Sí, hace mucho calor hoy. Estoy cansada porque he estado al sol todo el día: Ana: Yes, it’s very hot today. I am tired because I have been out in the sun all day.
Juan: Intenta encontrar algo de sombra. Y una cerveza fría: Juan: Try to find some shade. And a cold beer.

Spanish Verb Estar To Be

Ana: ¡Buena idea Juan! ¡Estoy un poco enferma pero estaré bien después de una cerveza fría!: Ana: Good idea Juan! I am a bit ill but I will be OK after a cold beer!
Juan: ¿Estás sola en Marchena?: Juan: Are you in Marchena alone?
Ana: No, no estoy sola. Estoy con mi amiga Irene. Ella es de Marchena. He venido a visitarla: Ana: No, I am not alone. I am with my friend Irene. She is from Marchena. I have come to visit her.
Juan: ¿Cómo conoces a Irene?: Juan: How do you know Irene?
Ana: Ella es doctora, como yo. Trabajábamos juntas en Madrid: Ana: She is a doctor, like me. We used to work together in Madrid.
Juan: ¡Qué bien Ana! Que lo paséis muy bien juntas: Juan: That’s great Ana! Have a very nice time together.
Ana: Gracias Juan. ¡Te veo cuando vuelva!: Ana: Thanks Juan. See you when I get back!

That is all for this lesson about the Spanish verb Estar To Be.

Other Spanish verbs we have seen so far in this course are Ser, Querer, and Tener.

There was lots of very useful information in this lesson which we recommend that you practice by creating your own similar sentences.

In our next Spanish lesson, we will practice more with Estar using the verb to give and follow directions and to describe where places and things are located.

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