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Ser vs estar

Ser vs Estar: How to Use the Most Challenging Verbs

Learning the differences between ser vs estar, por vs para or preterite vs imperfect is normally challenging for students of Spanish.

To help you understand the first pair, learn here the differences between the two, the most important uses of them with examples and audios, and phrases with meaning changes. In addition, find exercises to practice.

What is the Difference Between Estar and Ser

The easy approach to differentiate these two verbs is the following:

  • Ser describes an inherit or intrinsic attribute and indicates permanence.
  • Estar describes an induced characteristic and talks about a temporary quality.

To explore these concepts more in depth, check out our post Ser and Estar – General Concepts and Examples.

However, it is never as easy. Would you know that la fiesta es en el estadio de fútbol and el estadio de fútbol está en el centro are both correct? Or the same goes for soy listo and estoy listo?

Keep reading and learn the specific uses of ser and estar.

How to use Ser vs Estar

When to Use Ser


These descriptions can be names, physical characteristics, nationalities, gender, religions and even political affiliation.

  • Soy Inés.→ I am Inés.
  • La casa es grande.→ The house is big.
  • Soy español.→ I am Spanish.
  • Es un hombre.→ He is a man.
  • Somos católicos.→ We are Catholics.
  • La mayoría son demócratas.→ The majority are democrats.

Place of Origin

  • El vino es de España.→ The wine is from Spain.
  • Marta es de Alemania.→ Marta is from Germany.

Date and Time

  • Hoy es martes.→ Today is Tuesday.
  • Son las tres.→ It´s three o´clock.

Character or Personality Traits

  • Ana es alegre.→ Ana is happy.
  • Mi amiga es muy inteligente.→ My friend is very intelligent.


  • Ellos son mis padres.→ They are my parents.
  • Juan es mi compañero de trabajo.→ Juan is my coworker.

Event Location

  • La fiesta es en la plaza.→ The party is at the square.
  • La boda fue en la playa.→ The wedding was on the beach.


  • Somos cuatro personas.→ There are three of us.
  • Es mucho.→ It´s a lot.


  • El coche era de ella.→ The car was hers.
  • Esta casa es nuestra.→ This house is ours.


  • Mi tía es bombera.→ My aunt is a firefighter.
  • Somos los jefes de esta compañía.→ We are the bosses of this company.

When to Use Estar

Physical Location

  • Estoy en Barcelona.→ I´m in Barcelona.
  • ¿Dónde está la Barceloneta?→ Where is Barceloneta?

Physical States or Emotions

  • Pedro está enfermo.→ Pedro is sick.
  • María estaba triste.→ María was sad.

Progressive Tense

  • Estamos jugando al tenis.→ We are playing tennis.
  • Estoy leyendo un libro.→ I am reading a book.

Meaning Changes phrases

There are some words that change meaning depending on whether ser or estar is used.

Below are some of these words.

Ser aburrido
To be boringEstar aburrido
To be bored
Ser bueno
To be goodEstar bueno
To be attractive
To be tasty
Ser listo
To be smartEstar listo
To be ready
Ser malo
To be badEstar malo
To be sick
Ser rico
To be richEstar rico
To be tasty
Ser seguro
To be safeEstar seguro
To be certain
Ser mayor
To be oldEstar mayor
To look old

Looking for some examples with these phrases? Click here.

Common Expressions


¿Cómo eres?
What are you like?
What do you look like?
¿De dónde eres?
Where are you from?
¿Qué día es hoy?
What day is today?
¿Qué hora es?
What time is it?


¿Cómo estás?
How are you?
Estar a punto (de hacer algo)
To be about to (do something)
Estar conforme
To be in agreement
Estar de acuerdo (con)
To agree with
¿Qué tal estás?
How are you?

Ser vs Estar: Exercises



Written Practice

Gap Fill Exercises

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this post helps you understand ser vs estar in Spanish.

I recommend that you practice with the examples here and try to make up some on your own. Also, practice with the exercises that you will find in the links mentioned above.

In addition, I can help you practice with verbs by using them while having a conversation during our online Spanish conversation classes.

Additionally, we can practice in the comment section below by answering the following questions:

  • ¿De dónde eres?
  • ¿Desde dónde estás leyendo este artículo?

17 Tips to Becoming Conversationally Fluent in Spanish


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