the usage of SER & ESTAR

Ready for your examination?

Today will be a longer lesson covering some specifics about the usage of SER y ESTAR. Take your time and some deep breaths. This will only hurt a bit (no promises)…

the usage of SER & ESTAR

At a Glance:

SER (example): “Yo soy (I am) el Doctor Clift y soy medio pendejo.”

• This is your Identity & Essence.

ESTAR (example): “Estoy feliz en este momento” (I am happy right now).

• This is a Condition & a State.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

At Doctor’s Appointment

Hola friendly visitor, the Doc’s in the building! Now let me give you a hand with your Spanish—and not just a finger. Sorry! I’m not a proctologist if that’s what you’re looking for.

I’m a Spanish-speaking doctor (un doctor que habla español). Today, I want to explain the difference between SER and ESTAR. The verbs that mean “To Be”.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

Do you remember me?

First things first: Do you remember me? I’ll give you a hint: I’m not your biological father, a fortune teller or a voice actor on Dora the Explorer. I’m not Dr. Strange, or Dr. Phil. And lastly, I’m not the voice in your head that tells you to eat chocolate chip cookies at 3 a.m.

the usage of SER & ESTAR


And now for the big reveal: I’m Doctor Clift! And I will help you with your Spanish pains.
I am not an ordinary doctor. I am a man on a mission helping Spanish learners everywhere learn how “to be or not to be”—or even better how to behave while trying “to be” or “to drink.”

If your memory is rusty, let me help you remember. I work alongside Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy and the people who brought you the movie Spanglish. I bring presents to people all over the world, in the form of language assistance.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

As Confused as Confucius?

I accept milk and cookies year-round, chocolate kisses and bitcoin. I also proudly take high fives, free tequila shots, and three swings to the piñata at your next party, unblindfolded. Save a pair of maracas for me to shake, will you?

the usage of SER & ESTAR

Or More Confusing than Confucius!

If what I just said isn’t confusing to you, I have an unlimited supply of booster shots for you to grasp even more confusing concepts. Lift your shirt sleeves up and let’s begin! In my former life, I was as confused as Confucius. Well, I am still—at least—confusing.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

Ser & Estar Dissected!

What is the difference between SER y ESTAR then?

“Estoy contento”,

If I gave you a hundred dollars, you’d say, “Estoy contento.” You are happy in the moment because you’re 100 dollars richer. See, learning Spanish cannot only make you happy but wealthy!

“Yo soy contento”,

If you are happy in the moment, and you want to express it, Yo soy contento,” is not correct use. In this case, you are using SER with content, which it’s impossible in Spanish. It doesn’t make much sense in Spanish. Why? Because in Spanish, unlike English, “contento” can only be a condition. Why? That’s the way it is!

If you are trying to say that you are a content person, then, you can maybe say: Yo soy una persona feliz o una persona alegre.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

“Yo soy feliz”

However, you can say, “Yo soy feliz”. This means you are a happy person. Now, you see! Learning Spanish can save you money. No need to find a shrinker. Spanish is very “terapéutico.” ¿Qué viva el español!

the usage of SER & ESTAR

“Estoy triste”

After you spend the money I gave you, then you can say, “Estoy triste,” which means you are sad in the moment but not always sad. Most simply put, Ser is for characteristics, and Estar is for conditions. SER represents things that are more set-in-stone, and ESTAR is for changing states of emotions and conditions.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

“Soy triste.”

If I eat all your cookies and you’re sad, you’d say, “Estoy triste.” If you are sad all time or depressed, you might be tempted to say, “soy triste.” However, that’s wrong, because “triste” can only be a condition—at least in Spanish. You can’t be sad forever. That’s called something else in Spanish: It’s being melancholic or, even worse, depressed.

the usage of SER & ESTAR

Practica: ¡Más ejemplos!

Are you starting to get it now? Let’s try a question: If you’re saying, “I am from America,” which form will you use? …. ¿SER or ESTAR?

You will use SER, and say, “Yo soy de América,” because it is your identity and essence. It is your birthplace, origin, and where you are from—which doesn’t “usually” change.
FYI: América, is the name of a continent in Spanish—not the name of a country. Then, if you say in Spanish ¨Yo soy americano,¨ you are not referring to the United States of America,

You see, SER and ESTAR both mean TO BE but represent different meanings. Are you ready to have your mind blown?

the usage of SER & ESTAR

Dr. CLIFT for To Be or TO BE Issues!

DOCTOR, is it a way to remember how to use Ser o Estar? ¡Ay qué dolor! ¡Nunca había sentido tanto dolor en el alma! (“Oh, what pain! I had never felt so much pain in the soul before!”)

Don’t worry! DOCTOR CLIFT is here. Let’s use my name to help you remember when to use Ser or Estar.

Remember talking about acronyms on our post: To Be (Ser) Or To Be (Estar) ! Painful?
Well, let’s use again the one we know. First things first: Let’s look at my full name, the DOCTOR said.

You know my last name is CLIFT. Now let’s add the first letter of my first and middle name:

• ¨P¨ for possession (no por pendejo)

• ¨E¨ for event (no por estúpido)

the usage of SER & ESTAR

My Full Name:

Dr. P. E. CLIFT: Are you ready? = (¿eres listo o estás listo? We will explain that on a later article for Ser and Estar). Ready to discuss more in depth the usage of SER & ESTAR in Spanish. Let us have fun guys!

the usage of SER & ESTAR


D – Description

  1. He is an alien. He is a crossdresser. He is my friend.
  2. Es un extraterrestre. Es un travestí. Es mi amigo.

Let´s put all three sentences together:

• My friend is an alien crossdresser.

• “Mi amigo es un alienígena travesti.”

Astronaut and alien.

O – Origin

  1. She is from Columbia. She is from a cave. She is from a test tube.
  2. Ella es de Columbia. Ella es de una cueva. Es originaria de un tubo de ensayo.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• She is originally from a test tube in a Columbian cave.
• Ella es originaria de un tubo de ensayo en una cueva columbiana.


C – Characteristic

  1. The restaurant is terrible. The floors are purple. My face is ugly.
  2. El restaurante es terrible. Los pisos son de color púrpura. Mi cara es fea.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• My face and the restaurant are terribly ugly and purple.
• Mi cara y el restaurante son terriblemente feos y púrpura.

Restaurant 5 stars

T – Time/Date

  1. The time’s noon. It is moon’s time. Nighttime isn’t the right time.
  2. La hora es el mediodía. Es la hora de la luna. La noche no es el momento adecuado.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• Noon isn’t the right time for moon’s time.
• El mediodía no es el mejor momento para la luna.

Sun rise

O – Occupation

  1. I am a belly dancer. I am an artist. I am a flamingo photographer.
  2. Soy bailarina del vientre. Soy una artista. Soy una fotógrafa de flamenco.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• I am a flamingo belly dancing with an artistic photographer.
• “Soy un flamenco que baila danza del vientre con un fotógrafo artístico.”

Artist and photographer

R – Relationship

  1. Petra is my aunt. Pedro is my cat. She is my grandma’s yoga instructor.
  2. Petra es mi tía. Pedro es mi gato. Es el instructor de yoga de mi abuela.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• My grandmother Petra’s yoga instructor is the cat Pedro.
• El instructor de yoga de mi abuela Petra es el gato Pedro.


P – Possesion:

Ser describes things that are unlikely to change. Here is an example regarding possession.

  1. It’s my life. This mouth is mine. Espresso is my morning alarm.
  2. Esta es mi vida. Esta boca es mia. El espresso es mi alarma por las mañanas.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• In the mornings, the espresso of my life is the alarm for my mouth.
• Por las mañanas, el espresso de mi vida es la alarma de la boca mía.

Wake up

E – Events:

Time and location of an event

  1. The party is at my house. The class is at 7:00 p.m. The funeral is at the cemetery
  2. La fiesta es en mi casa. La clase es a las 7:00 p.m. El funeral es en el cementerio.

Let’s combine these sentences:

  • The funeral party is at my cemetery’s house at 7:00 p.m.
  • La fiesta fúnebre es en mi casa del cementerio a las 7:00 p.m.
Bad time

Are You Bored so Far? Or Boring?

Are you bored or boring? “Estoy aburrido,” means, “I am bored.” “Soy aburrido,” means, “I am boring.” This difference is explained on this article: Hamlet: ¿¨SER o No ESTAR?¨

Remember: “Estoy” is a condition. “Soy” is not. Remember “Soy bean.” Or “Soy milk.”? Ok. Nowadays, you can be whatever you want—even Soy pendejo.

Boring int he office


Now that we have matched my first and middle name with SER, let’s take my last name and use it for ESTAR.

CLIFT is a way to remember how to use Estar.

Doctor using Ser & Estar

C – Condition

  1. I’m on the edge of a cliff. I’m dressed as a horse. I am content with my pony Pocho
  2. Estoy al borde de un barranco. Estoy vestida de caballo. Estoy contenta con mi poni Pocho.

Let’s combine these sentences:

• I am dressed as a horse on the edge of the cliff with my pony Pocho
• Estoy vestida de caballo al borde del barranco con mi pony Pocho.

Girl in a horse

L – Location

  1. My father is in the ocean. I am on the sand. I am at a hotel in Cleveland.
  2. Mi padre está en el océano. Yo estoy en la arena. Estoy en un hotel en Cleveland.

Let´s put all three sentences together:

• My father and I are at Cleveland Ocean Hotel, lying on the sand.
• Mi padre y yo estamos en el Hotel Cleveland Ocean, tumbados en la arena.

The best hotel

I – …Ing verb (a progressive action: laughing, jumping, etc.)

  1. I am punching his face. He is sleeping now. The penguins are jumping.
  2. Le estoy golpeando la cara. Que está sucediendo ahora. Los pingüinos están saltando.

Let´s put all three sentences together:

• The penguins are now jumping and punching his face while he is sleeping.
• Los pingüinos están saltando y golpeando su cara mientras él está durmiendo.


F – Feeling

  1. I’m crazy! I’m crying. I am in love.
  2. ¡Estoy loco! Estoy llorando. Estoy enamorado.

Let´s put all three sentences together:

• I am crying because I am crazy and in love.
• Estoy llorando porque estoy loco y enamorado.

Guy crying

T – Taste

  1. The dead chicken is delicious. This teabag is bitter. Its flavor is rancid.
  2. El pollo muerto es delicioso. La bolsa de té es amarga. Su sabor es rancio.

Let´s put all three sentences together:

• The dead chicken’s bitter teabags are delicious with a rancid flavor.
• Los sacos amargos de té del pollo muerto son deliciosos y con un sabor rancio.

Speaking Spanish doesn’t have to be a pain in your butt! We can simplify the confusing nature of verbs Ser or Estar by using my name Doctor Clit.Oops…I meant CLIFT. I have an accent!

Eating so fast


To continue mastering the uses of TO BE & TO BE in Spanish. Read our SER & ESTAR saga. If wanna find out whether it is “estar sexi” o “ser sexi”, check out Things Spanish People Say in the Bedroom and the Sexi Chupacabras section.

flirty girl

Want Some Laugh?

Check our Language Bloopers section to learn what you don’t wanna say to avoid getting in trouble when learning a new language.

people laughing

Free Lessons on the House

Yes! Click the red button to book your Free Spanish Lesson. Go beyond the usage of SER & ESTAR amd learn how to use these elusive Spanish verbs. And always remember…

Think to speak Spanish
5 2 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments