Ser and Estar

# F. J. Villatoro #

Ser and Estar

Ser and estar can both be translated as "to be".


In English, the verb "to be" can be used to tell how something is (the condition) and what something is (the essence).


How is the apple?

It is unripe.

What color is the apple?

It is green.


In Spanish, a different verb is used to express "to be" depending on whether the speaker intends to address a condition or an essential quality.

La manzana está verde.

The apple is green. (condition)

La manzana es verde.

The apple is green. (essence)


To address condition, use estar. Estar is an irregular verb. It does not follow the standard rules of conjugation for regular -ar verbs. Therefore, you must memorize it.

Estar = estoy / estás / está / estamos / estáis / están


To address an essential quality, use ser. Ser is also irregular and must be memorized.

Ser = soy / eres / es / somos / sois / son


If you are talking about what something is, use ser; if you are talking about how something is, use estar.

1. What is she like?

She is quiet.

Use ser:

Ella es callada.

2. How is she acting?

She is being quiet.

Use estar:

Ella está callada.