The Difference Between Ser and EstarThere are few verbs in Spanish that are as important as ser; estar, also meaning ‘to be’, tener ‘to have’ and haber, also meaning ‘to have’ , but used extensively as an auxiliary verb in the Perfect tenses, to name but three.

However, it is with the use and conjugation of the Spanish verb ser that most students start. Ser is a difficult verb to start learning as it has many irregular forms in many of it’s tenses, but before looking at these irregularities it would be best to know when ser should be used.

In English we take the the verb ‘to be’ pretty much for granted as most of us learned how to conjugate it at such an early age that many of us probably can’t recall ever learning it, but unlike English, Spanish has two verbs meaning ‘to be’, ser and estar as mentioned previously, and these verbs are both used at different times; here though we shall only concentrate on Ser.

The Spanish verb Ser is used to describe:

  • Identity: Soy Danny – I am Danny
  • Possession: El Coche es de Danny – The car is Danny’s
  • Origin: Mis amigos son de Barcelona – My friends are from Barcelona
  • Nationality: Son ingleses – They are English
  • Occupation: El padre de Melanie es arquitecto – Melanie’s father is an architect
  • Material of which something is made: La casa es de oro – The house is made of gold
  • Inherent Characteristics: Juan es muy corto – Juan is very short
  • Expressions of time: Son las seis – It is six o’clock, Mañana es lunes – Tomorrow is Monday
  • Impersonal Expressions: Es mejor esperar – It is better to wait, Es difícil contestar – It is difficult to answer

If you wanted to express location, whether it is temporary or permanent, then estar would be used, for example:

  • Madrid está en España – Madrid is in Spain
  • Estoy en la cocina – I am in the kitchen.

Estar would also be used when describing temporary states or conditions such as:

  • Estoy enfermo – I am sick

Other than for the two uses above, ser is always used.

Ser is irregular in the following indicative tenses; present, imperfect and preterite as well as having an irregular present and past participle. It is also irregular in the following subjunctive tenses; present, imperfect and future, and finally ser is also irregular in the imperative.

As you can see there is quite a bit of ground to cover when learning the Spanish verb ser, I would advise downloading the free conjugation sheet from this location http://irregularspanishverbs.com/ser/.

However, if you are really struggling then you should check out my verbarrator review, it is a fantastic tool that will benefit you greatly when learning Spanish verb conjugation.

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