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8.4. PRESENT TENSE: To be or not to be – SER and ESTAR

The verb ‘to be’ is quite tricky in Spanish for English speakers. Spanish has 2 verbs ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ which both mean ‘to be’ but they are not interchangeable.

‘Ser’ indicates things like professions, nationality, etc, or inherent characteristics that are part of who you are e.g. ‘I am Colombian’, ‘I am a doctor’, ‘he is big’.

‘Estar’ on the other hand indicates location e.g. ‘he is in Madrid’ or things about you that are temporary, your state at the moment which could change later e.g. ‘she is tired’, ‘they are ready’.


Yo soy - I am
Tú eres - You are
Usted es - You are
Él/Ella es - He/She is
Nosotros/Nosotras somos - We are
Ustedes son - You are
Ellos/Ellas son - They are

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Examples of how to use ‘ser’:

Soy abogado - I am a lawyer
¿Eres médico? – Are you a doctor?
Él es inteligente - He is intelligent
Ella es colombiana – She is Colombian
Es necesario – It’s necessary
La mesa es de madera – The table is (made) of wood
Somos ricos/ricas – We are rich
Ellas son pequeñas – They are small

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Yo estoy - I am
Tú estás - You are
Usted está - You are
Él/Ella está - He/She are
Nosotros/Nosotras estamos - We are
Ustedes están - You are
Ellos/Ellas están - They are

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Examples of how to user ‘estar’:

Estoy listo/a – I am ready
¿Cómo estás? – How are you
Él está bien – He is good/ok
Ella está en el supermercado – She is at the supermarket
La sopa está fría – The soup is cold
La puerta está abierta – The door is open
El almacen está cerrado – The store is closed
Estamos solos/solas – We are alone
Ellas están en la ciudad – They are in the city

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