Estar vs. Ser

Difference Between estar and ser

Understanding the difference between estar and ser

For those who are learning Spanish as a second language, there is bound to be confusion between the verbs “estar” and “ser”. This language is widely spoken in Central and South America, Spain and other parts of the world. It is taught as a second language in schools in the US. It has become a very popular language with the increase of tourists to the Caribbean and Mexico who want to be able to converse with the residents of these areas.

Spanish is not an easy language to master and there are some words that when translated to English have the same meaning. Two of these are estar and ser, which when translated mean “to be”. However they have different meanings in Spanish and cannot be used interchangeably.

“Ser” is the verb to use when you are speaking of an object or a person. It refers to a physical characteristic of an object or a person, such as color and texture. It can also be used to speak of personality traits and character, such as gender, ethnicity and nationality. One easy way to remember the proper used of ser is to remember that it is associated with identity. If you want to speak about what something is, then you use “ser”.

One of the difficulties of mastering the use of “ser” is that it is an irregular verb and is therefore conjugated differently from “estar”. The conjugation of ser in the present tense is”

yo soy nosotros/as somos

tu eres vosotros/as sois

usted/il/ella es ustedes/ellos/ellas son

“Estar” is the Spanish verb you use when you speak of the condition of an object or person. It can refer to the mood or emotions. You use this verb when you are speaking of where an object, a person or a group of people are located. It refers to the state of something or the “how”.  It, too, is an irregular verb and therefore you should learn how to conjugate this verb.

yo estoy nosotros/as estamos

tu estas vosotros/as estais

usted/il/ella esta ustedes/ellos/ellas estan

It will take continuous use and study to use the words estar and ser properly and with ease. You will also be able to tell the difference between the two and you won’t get them confused. You just have to remember that estar refers to the “how” or something or someone and ser refers to the “what” of something or someone.

Summary

  1. Both estra and ser mean “to be” in English.
  2. They are both irregular verbs and this means a different method of conjugating them.
  3. Ser refers to the physical aspects of an object or person – what it looks like.
  4. Estra refers to the condition of an object or person – the how of the object.