If you've been following me from the beginning of this blog, you'll already know how to conjugate part of the verb "ser", and also, part of the verb "estar". But do you really know what they actually mean? Yes, both verbs are the equivalent of the verb "to be". This lesson is crucial as long as you don't want to be mistaken when it comes to use these two verbs.
SER / ESTAR : Main difference
SER is used to describe permanent qualities of concrete and abstract things.
ESTAR is used to describe temporary qualities of concrete and abstract things.
(Yo) soy Antonio
(Tú) eres muy guapa (you are very beautiful)
(Tú) estás muy guapa (you are very beautiful - at this moment -)
Imagine you are in a party and your best friend introduce you to a n incredibly beautiful girl. You are delighted in her beauty and so you say "Tú estás muy guapa". Unfortunately, the girl start laughing at you. Why?
Maybe she's making fun of your "beauty"... or more probably, your sentence was a bit ludicrous.
First, if you want to make flattering comments to a person you've just met use the verb "ser". e.g. "Eres muy guapa".
Second, try not to use personal pronouns. Remember, you've just met her. If you say "tú", you are probably treating her too closely... or she realize you're a foreigner.
Supposing that you meet a girl you already knew, if she's prettier than usual, then you can say "Estás muy guapa".
Tu pelo es negro (your hair is black)
Tu pelo está negro (your hair is black - and that's not its natural colour- )
(Él) es simpático (He's a nice person)
(Él) está simpático (He's nice)
(Yo) soy médico (I'm a doctor)
(Yo) soy portugués (I'm Portuguese)(Yo) soy de Madrid (I'm from Madrid)
Eso es una avion (That's an airplane)
In the example above, use the verb "ser" if you want to say someone is beautiful because it is supposed that he or she will be beautiful every time BUT now imagine that same girl is sad, use "estar" because it is supposed she's not always sad: "¿Estás triste?".
SER is also used to talk about time, date, quantities...
Son las dos y media ( It is half past two / It's two thirty)
Ya es primavera en el Corte Inglés (It's spring now in "El Corte Inglés)
Hoy es 11 de noviembre de 2010 (Today is november 11th, 2010)
¿Cuánto es? Son dos euros. (How is it? It's two euros)
ESTAR is also used to talk about locations.
¿Está en casa? (Is it at home?)
Estoy en Venecia, mañana vuelvo (I'm at Venice, I'll come back tomorrow)
Estamos perdidos (We are lost)
El libro está encima de la mesa (The book is on the table)
Note: Estar is also used as an auxiliary verb.
¡! ¿Dónde es la fiesta? (where's the party?) = ¿Dónde está la fiesta? (where's the party?)
We tend to use the verb ser when we want to talk about the temporary location os something like an event. Therefore, "¿dónde es la fiesta?" is more frequently used than "¿dónde está la fiesta?. More examples:
- ¿Dónde es la boda? (where's the wedding?)
- ¿Dónde es tu cumpleaños? (where's your birthday?)
- ¿Dónde es el concierto de los Rolling Stones? (where's the concert of the Rolling Stones?)
You are in a crossroads and you don't know where to go, so you ask your friend: ¿Por dónde es?
Here we have a rap explaining the difference between ser and estar. You'll love it! ;)
I forgot talking about the personal pronouns in the last post. Ok, it's not difficult. In Spanish we have singular personal pronouns (yo, tú, el/ella) and plural personal pronouns (nosotros/nosotras, vosotros/as, ellos/ellas). There are also two formal personal pronouns: usted (uses the third singular person form of verbs), ustedes (uses the third plural person form of verbs).
YO (first person - singular)
TÚ (second person - singular)
ÉL (third person - singular - masculine) ELLA (third person - singular - feminine)
NOSOTROS (first person - plural - masculine) NOSOTRAS (first person - plural - feminine)
VOSOTROS (second person - plural - masculine) VOSOTRAS (second person - plural - feminine)
ELLOS (third person - plural - masculine) ELLAS (third person - plural - feminine)
If you are talking of a group of women and there's a man, use VOSOTROS. If you are a group, no matter how many girls there are, use NOSOTROS if there's at least one man. Do the same thing with ELLOS.
If you are talking with old people or with a man or woman you want to treat politely, use the formal personal pronouns: USTED and USTEDES.
In Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Uruguay, VOS is used instead of TÚ. Latin American people is very respectful, they treat almost everybody in a respectful manner. For example, if you are in Venezuela, the most typical way of adressing an adult is using formal personal pronouns. VOS can also be understood as a formal personal pronoun.
SER : Present Simple
Él / Ella ES
Nosotros -as SOMOS
Vosotros -as SOIS
Ellos -as SON
ESTAR : Present Simple
Él / Ella ESTÁ
Nosotros -as ESTAMOS
Vosotros -as ESTÁIS
Ellos -as ESTÁN