The Verb "To Be" In Spanish: Ser and Estar
There are two ways to express to be in Spanish. One can use either the verb ser or the verb estar. The uses of each verb are different. Only in some cases you can use them interchangeably. Otherwise you need to know when to use which one. For new comers, it is not always easy to decide which one to use in some cases. That’s why, the differences in the usages of ser and estar will be handled in a separate ser or estar? how to decide lesson in more detail.
In this lesson, we will learn their conjugations in present tense and make an introduction to how they function.
The verb ser should be one of the first Spanish verbs you should learn because it is used to make the most basic sentences in Spanish. It can be used, for example, to introduce yourself in Spanish, which is the subject of the next lesson. Ser is used to make descriptions as well.
Let us first see how it is conjugated in present tense and then make some sample sentences.
yo soy I am
tú eres You are
él/ella es He/she is
usted es You are
nosotros/-as somos We are
vosotros/-as sois You are
ellos/-as son They are
ustedes son You are
As mentioned above, ser is used to express your profession or what you are.
For example, you can say I am a student in Spanish as
- (yo) soy estudiante
Remember what we said about the subject pronouns in the related lesson. In Spanish, they are rarely used. Hence, the full sentence is “yo soy estudiante” but it is enough to say soy estudiante.
For the other subject pronouns:
- (tú) eres estudiante you are a student
- (él) es estudiante he is a student
- (ella) es estudiante she is a student
- (usted) es estudiante you are a student
- (nosotros/-as) somos estudiantes we are students
- (vosotros/-as) sois estudiantes you are students
- (ellos/-as) son estudiantes they are students
- (ustedes) son estudiantes you are students
Note that for the plural subject pronouns, you need to make the estudiante plural. You can read the lesson nouns and gender in Spanish (1) to learn how to form plurals in Spanish.
Again, remember that in the lesson Nouns and gender in Spanish (2) we noted that the nouns ending in –ante can be either gender. So, in the above sentences it did not matter what the gender of the speaker was. But if you would like to say for example “I am an engineer”, you need to pay attention to gender.
- (yo) soy ingeniero if you are a man but
- (yo) soy ingeniera if you a woman.
Similarly, he is an engineer is in Spanish
- (él) es ingeniero
While she is an engineer is ingeniera
- (ella) es ingeniera.
For the remaining subject pronouns:
- (usted) es ingeniero/-a you are an engineer
- (nosotros/-as) somos ingenieros/-as we are engineers
- (vosotros/-as) sois ingenieros/-as you are engineers
- (ellos/-as) son ingenieros/-as they are engineers
- (ustedes) son ingenieros/-as you are engineers
Once again, you need to choose the correct form ingeniero(s) or ingeniera(s) in accordance with the gender.
Another important application of ser is to express nationalities.
- soy italiano I am Italian (for a male)
- soy italiana I am Italian (for a female)
As you can see, in Spanish not only the nouns are affected by the gender, but also the adjectives. Spanish adjectives need to be in accordance with the number as well. That means they can be plural was well.
For example, similar sentences for the plural subject pronouns read
- (nosotros/-as) somos italionos/-as we are Italian
- (vosotros/-as) sois italionos/-as you are Italian
- (ellos/-as) son italionos/-as they are Italian
- (ustedes) son italionos/-as you are Italian
You can also ask people where they come from using ser:
- ¿De donde eres? Where are you from?
Soy de Madrid I am from Madrid
You can learn more about this subject and nationalities and countries in Spanish in lesson adjectives in Spanish.
Ser is used to describe things and people. For example;
- Mi casa es pequeña my house is small
- Es muy alto/-a he/she is very tall
Since descriptions are made using adjectives, again you should gain the related knowledge about Spanish adjectives to make correct sentences in this respect.
You will learn more uses of ser in lesson ser or estar?
The second to be verb estar is conjugated as follows in present tense
yo estoy I am
tú estás you are
él/ella está he/she is
usted está you are
nosotros/nosotras estamos we are
vosotros/vosotras estáis you are
ellos/ellas están you are
ustedes están you are
One of the primary uses of estar is to express localization.
- El libro está en la mesa. The book is on the table.
You can learn more on this use of estar in lesson use of estar to describe the position of the objects.
How someone feels
Another important use of estar is to express how someone feels. For example you can say someone is ill as follows
- (yo) estoy enfermo/-a I am ill
- (tú) estás enfermo/-a you are ill
- (él/ella) está he/she is ill
- (usted) está you are ill
- (nosotros/nosotras) estamos enfermos/-as we are ill
- (vosotros/vosotras) estáis enfermos/-as you are ill
- (ellos/ellas) están enfermos/-as you are ill
- (ustedes) están enfermos/-as you are ill
Its use in grammar
Estar is used as auxiliary verb in progressive tense.
Other uses of estar are described in ser or estar?
Learn some basic words that you can use with ser
(la) azafata hostess