ser, estar – to be

to be – two very irregular verbs, ser and estar:

ser is used to describe fixed (static) identity/characteristics/quality (e.g., colour, size, material, age, possession/owner) of a person or thing, also numbers/calculations, times, and prices:

La manzana es verde – The apple is green (colour green)   ← essence, essential characteristic

Soy Miguel.  Soy inglés.  Es de Coventry.  Es ingeniero.

El árbol es de madera – The tree is wooden

El coche nuevo es de Luis – The new car is Luis’s.

Tres y dos son cinco – Three plus two is five

Son las dos y media; Es la una.

¿Cuánto es? ¿Cuánto son? Son trece euros.

  sea (present subjunctive singular, 1st or 3rd person) has many uses:

o sea – that is, that is to say

en el primer trimestre, o sea, en los primeros tres meses – in the first quarter, that is, in the first three months

sea como sea – in any case

cuando sea – whenever

lo que sea – whatever, anything

ya sea por x or y – whether it be x or y

ya sea huevo o gallina – whether it be chicken or egg

ya sea por motives de trabajo, o diversión – whether it be for work or pleasure

aunque sea poco – although it be little

aunque sea pequeña, sea fuerte – although she be little, she be strong

ojalá sea pronto – I hope it be soon

(Thanks to Nancy for collecting these.)

  also ser is used before an infinitive, for passive actions (see also passive voice), and where events are taking place:

Lo importante es decir la verdad – The important thing is to tell the truth

Es fabricado en Espana – It is made in Spain

La fiesta será en Potes – The fiesta will be in Potes

estar is used to describe temporary state (mood/health/state/condition) of a person or thing, also weather and (in Castilian) location:

La manzana está verde – The apple is green (unripe)   ← condition

El cielo ahora está rojo – The sky is red now   ← at the moment

¿Cómo estás? Estoy muy bien / ¿Cómo están? Estamos cansados.

¿Dónde está el teatro? – Where is the theatre?

Bilbao está en el norte. – Bilbao is in the North

No está terminado – It isn’t finished

La mesa está hecha de madera – The table is made of wood  (passive tense)

Also haber and tener can mean to be.

Ser   Estar
yo soy I am estoy
eres you are estás
usted, él/ella es you are, he/she/it is está
nosotros/as somos we are estamos
vosotros/as sois you are estáis
ustedes, ellos/ellas son you/they are están
  fui I was estuve
  fuiste you were estuviste
  fue you were, he/she/it was estuvo
  fuimos we were estuvimos
  fuisteis you were estuvisteis
  fueron you/they were estuvieron
  era I was estaba
  eras you were estabas
  era you were, he/she/it was estaba
  éramos we were estábamos
  erais you were estabais
  eran you/they were estaban
Future (is regular)
  seré I will be estaré
  serás you will be estarás
  será you/he/she/it will be estará
  seremos we will be estaremos
  seréis you will be estaréis
  serán you/they will be estarán
  sea I be esté
  seas you be, thou art estés
  sea you/he/she/it be esté
  seamos we be estemos
  seáis you be estéis
  sean you/they be estén
Imperative tú be .. ! está
Imperative vosotros sed be .. ! estad
Gerund siendo being estando
Past Participle sido been estado


Ser vs. Estar (two verbs) only occurs in Iberian romance languages (Spanish, Portugese, Galician, Catalan, and dialects).

ser, estar – to be was last edited on 2023-01-21  
Topic: Spanish