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Is, Am, and Are
The Spanish Verbs Ser
vs Estar
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Introduction

    
In English we can say “I am a student.”, “I am sick.”, or “I am here.”  Or we can talk about other people and say, “He is a student.”, “She is sick.”, or “They are here.”  We use is, am, or are for all kinds of situations. 
    
In Spanish, however, we use two sets of words to express is, to express am, or to express are.  The words we use depends entirely on the situations in which we use them.  For example, we could say The boy is… two different ways:  Él chico es de México.  (The boy is from Mexico.), or  El chico está en México. (The boy is in México) 
    
Actually, there are two totally different verbs which we use for is, am, and are.  The infinitive form of each of these verbs means “to be”.  These verbs are ESTAR and SER.
     To the English speaker it may seem unimportant which of these verbs is used.  But it is very important to the Spanish-speaking person!  Remember:
     You can’t use one when you are supposed to use the other!

Present Indicative tense conjugation of ESTAR
 

estoy  I am 

 estamos  we are

estás     you are

estáis     you all are

está  he is, she is,
          you are, it is

están  they are,
             you all are

 Present Indicative tense conjugation of SER  

soy      I am

  somos  we are

eres     you are

  sois       you all are

es    he is, she is,
         you are, it is

  son     they are,
               you all are

When to use the verb ESTAR:  

1.     When talking about location.  

Examples:  I am here.                Yo estoy aquí.

                  You are here.           Tú estás aquí.  or  Usted está aquí.

                  She is here.             Ella está aquí.

                  The city is in Spain.  La ciudad está en España.

                  We aren’t home.       Nosotros no estamos en casa.

2.     When talking about health.  

Examples:  He is sick.                         Él está enfermo.

                  How are you?                    ¿Cómo está usted?    

                  I’m fine.                             Yo estoy bien.

                  How is Mrs. Lopez?           ¿Cómo está la Señora Lopez?

3.     When greeting people. (even if you don’t care how they are!)  

Examples:  How are you?                     ¿Cómo estás tú?

                  How are you all?                ¿Cómo están ustedes?

4.     When talking about moods, emotions and feelings.  

Examples:  I’m tired.                           Yo estoy cansado.

                  She is tired.                      Ella está cansada.

                  He is happy.                     Él está alegre.

                  They are in love.                Ellos están enamorados.

                  We are worried.                 Nosotros estamos preocupados.

 

5.     When speaking in the “progressive”.

Examples:  I’m eating                          Estoy comiendo.

                  We’re walking.                
   Estamos caminando.

6.     In general, the verb ESTAR is used to describe temporary conditions and situations.  It describes how or where something/someone is.

 Note:  Don’t forget the accent marks in estás, está, estáis, and están!

When to use the verb SER:  

1.     When talking about where someone or something is from.  

Example:  I’m from Illinois.                           Soy de Illinois.

                The man is from Mexico.             El hombre es de México.

                The shirt is from Peru.                 La camisa es de El Perú.

 

2.     When talking about what someone or something is.  

Example:  Who is the girl?                  ¿Quién es la chica?

                 It is a pencil.                      Es un lápiz.

                 He is a man.                      Es un hombre. (Es hombre.)

 

3.     When talking about what someone or something is like.  

Example:  What’s she like?                 ¿Cómo es ella?

 

4.     When talking about someone’s occupation or profession.  

Example:  She is a teacher.                Ella es maestra.

                We are students.               Somos estudiantes.

 

5.     When talking about someone’s nationality.  

Example:  They are Guatemalan.       Son guatemaltecos.

                 I’m American.                  Soy norteamericano.

 

6.     When talking about physical characteristics and abilities.  

Example:  Robert is tall.                      Roberto es alto.

                She is blonde.                    Ella es rubia.

                They are short.                   Ellos son bajos.

                The box is big.                    La caja es grande.

                Adam is strong.                   Ad
án es fuerte.

 

7.     When talking about someone’s personality and mental abilities.  

Example:  Chuck is smart.                            Carlito es listo.

                The boy is boring.                          El chico es aburrido.

                 Vanessa is fun.                            Vanessa es divertida.

 

8.     When telling time.  

Example:  What time is it?                   ¿Qué hora es?

                 It is 5:00 .                            Son las cinco.

                 It is 1:10 .                            Es la una y diez.

 

9.     In general, the verb SER is used to describe permanent conditions and situations.  It describes what something/someone is or what something/someone is like.

   

SER & ESTAR in additional tenses:

      Imperfect Indicative tense conjugation of ESTAR 

estaba    I used to be, was                         

 estábamos  etc.

estabas  etc.

estabais       etc.  

estaba    etc.

estaban        etc.

      
        Imperfect Indicative tense conjugation of SER
 

era      I used to be, was                         

 éramos  etc.

eras      etc.

erais      etc.   

era      etc.

 eran       etc.


        Preterite tense conjugation of ESTAR
 

estuve        I was                         

 estuvimos   etc.

estuviste    etc.

estuvisteis   etc.  

estuvo        etc.

estuven        etc.

 

        Preterite tense conjugation of SER  

fui           I was                         

 fuimos      etc.

fuiste      etc.

 fuisteis     etc.  

fue          etc.

 fueron        etc.

   

        Future Indicative tense conjugation of ESTAR  

estaré        I will/shall be                         

 estaremos  etc.

estarás      etc.

estaréis       etc.  

estará        etc.

estarán        etc.

         Future Indicative tense conjugation of SER  

seré           I will/shall be                         

 seremos   etc.

serás      etc.

 seréis       etc.  

será          etc.

 serán        etc.

   

        Conditional Indicative tense conjugation of ESTAR  

estaría   I would/should be                         

 estaríamos  etc.

estarías      etc.

estaríais      etc.

estaría        etc.

 estarían        etc.

 

        Conditional Indicative tense conjugation of SER  

sería      I would/should  be                         

 seríamos  etc.

serías    etc.

 seríais      etc.     

sería      etc.

 serían       etc.

To view the other tenses for Ser and Estar click here

 

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