Ser vs Estar



–  see what makes them different and learn how to use them like a native speaker.


If you are a visual learner you might prefer this information presented as a mind map :)  Click here for mind map.



Ser is used to ‘C.I.D.’  


‘classify’, ‘identify’ & ‘define’ – used with nouns 


1.   Professions & Religion


Soy maestra.   I’m a teacher.

Ella es testigo de Jehová.   She is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.


2.   Conditions or characteristics (including emotions) that classify, identify or define things or people


Es un ciudad muy sucia.   It’s a very dirty city.

Soy bajita y él es alto.   I’m short and he is tall.

La maleta es pesado.   The suitcase is heavy.

Es de mal humor.   He’s a bad tempered person.

Soy casada.  I’m a married woman.   (see the slight difference below using estar)


2b.   Note that these characteristics don’t have to be permanent just definitive.


El es nuevo aquí.     He’s new around here.


3.   Where someone is from & nationalities


Soy de Nueva Zelanda.     I’m from New Zealand.

Ella es francesa.    She’s French.


4.   Telling time & stating the date or days of the week  


Son las 5 de la tarde.    It’s 5 PM

Es el quince de enero.   It’s the 15th of January.

Es miercoles.   It’s Wednesday.


NB:  Estar can also be used for dates, months and days of week, see below.



5.   Possession


La cartera es de Juan.   The wallet is John’s.


6.   What something is made of


La mesa es de madera.    The table is made of wood.


7.   Size & Length


La casa es grande.    The house is big.

El serpiente es largo.     The snake is long.

El carro/coche/auto es pequeño.   The car is small.


8.   Colors


Las rosas son rojas.   Roses are red.


9.   To say that something is’ taking place’  – use ser to say when or where an event is taking place (not to be confused with describing the location of a person or thing described with estar below)


La reunión es a las 10 de la mañana.     The meeting is (takes place) at 10 am.

El concierto será en el centro.   The concert will be (will take place) in town.

¿Dónde será la boda de María?    Where will Maria’s wedding be (take place)?


10.   To form the passive voice = ser + past participle

(Used when the agent of the verb is unknown or unstated (1) or to put more emphasis on the person or thing which receives the action of the verb (2)


1.   Este hospital fue construido en el año 1928.   This hospital was built in 1928.

2.   Vanessa fue vista por varias personas. Vanessa was seen by several people.

(vs Varias personas vieron a Vanessa.  (active voice)   Several people saw Vanessa.






Estar is used to describe situations and states in time and space:  (Can not be used with nouns, used with adjectives).


1.   Changeable states or conditions


La calle está muy sucia.    The street is really dirty   (not usually this way but It has just rained and there’s mud everywhere)


2.   Emotional states that are changeable


Está enojado.   He’s angry.

(Note:  enojado could be used with ‘ser’ but the meaning would change from someone being angry at the moment to describing an angry person, ie. that’s his general personality.)


3.   Permanent or temporary location/position of people/things


María está en el baño.   Maria is in the bathroom.

Auckland está en Nueva Zelanda.     Auckland is in New Zealand.


4.   A state in time (the result of an action rather than the action itself)


= estar + past participle


La luz está apagada.     The light is off.

La luz está prendida.       The light is on.

La puerta está abierta.     The door’s open.

La conferencia estuvo abierta al público. The conference was open to the public.

La carretera está cerrada debido a un deslizamiento de tierras. The road is closed due to a landslide.

Estoy casada.  I’m married.   (NB:  see the slight difference when ser is used above)


5.  For dates, months and days of the week


¿Hoy estamos a 25 de Agosto?    Is today is the 25th of August?

¿Hoy estamos a sábado?    Is today Saturday?


NB:  Ser can also be used, see above.


6.    Used to form present progressive tense


= estar + present participle


Estoy caminando.    I’m walking.

Él está bailando.   He is dancing.



For some more indepth lessons click below: