Ser vs. Estar: The Definitive Guide to Using the Spanish Verbs “To Be”

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Ser and estar are two important Spanish verbs that both mean “to be”. So, how do we know when to use the right one?

If you’ve ever been confused about when to use the Spanish verbs ser and estar, this article will clarify things and help you use the right form of “to be” every time.

First, let’s look at how we conjugate each verb…

Next, let’s use 2 helpful acronyms to help us remember when to use one over the other.

When do we use ser?

The acronym D.O.C.T.O.R is a great way to remember the uses of ser.

We will use ser for:







*The preposition de means “of” and “from” andit implies origin so we tend to use it with the verb ser.


For describing the essential qualities of people, and the makeup of living and non living things.


El pájaro es azul. The bird is blue.

Las sillas son de madera. The chairs are made of wood.

La casa es grande. The house is big.


For describing where someone or something is from.


La mesa es de California. The table is from California.

Los estudiantes son de California. The students are from California.

Las flores son de Colombia. The flowers are from Colombia.


For describing characteristics of people and living things.


Los estudiantes son amables. The students are friendly.

El perro es gracioso. The dog is funny.

Nosotros somos responsables. We are responsible.


For talking about the day, date, season, time.


Hoy es viernes. Today is Friday.

Es el diez de abril. It is April 10th.

Ahora es primavera. It is now spring.

Son las cinco. It is five o’clock.


For describing occupations including family roles.


María es profesora. Maria is a professor.

eres estudiante. You are a student.

Nana es una abuela excelente. Nana is an excellent grandmother.


For describing one’s relationship to people, living and non living things (the possessive in English).


Sparky es miperro. Sparky is my dog.

Son los libros de María. They are María’s books.

María es mi mamá. Maria is my mom.

When do we use estar?

The acronym P.L.A.C.E. is a great way

to remember the uses of estar.

We will use estar for:






*The preposition en meansin“, “onandat“. It implies location so we tend to use it with the verb estar.


For saying where someone or something is positioned in relation to some place/something/someone else.


La mesa está cerca de la cocina. The table is near the kitchen.

Los estudiantes están sentados. The students are seated.

El perro está acostado. The dog is lying down.


For saying where someone, something or some place is located.


Los estudiantes están en Boston. The students are (located) in Boston.

El perro está en la casa. The dog is at the house.

California está en los Estados Unidos. California is (located) in the United States.


For expressing that something is happening. The present progressive / present continuous tense in English.


Los estudiantes están hablando. The students are speaking.

El perro está comiendo. The dog is eating.

Está lloviendo. It is raining.


For talking about changing physical or mental conditions including things that change over time.


Los estudiantes no están enfermos. The students are not sick.

El té está caliente. The tea is hot.

La comida está deliciosa hoy. The food is delicious today.


For expressing how a living thing is doing or feeling at a given moment.


Los estudiantes están felices. The students are happy.

Los perros no están tristes. The dogs are not sad.

Ustedes están emocionados. You are all excited.

Ser vs. Estar compared

When talking about more permanent qualities, it’s a helpful rule of thumb to use ser. For temporary qualities, use estar.

If you want to express where an event takes place, use ser:

La fiesta es en la casa de Maria. The party is (takes place) in Maria’s house.

To express where a person, place or thing is located, use estar:

La casa de Maria está en Los Ángeles. Maria’s house is in Los Angeles.

If you want to describe someone’s traits or characteristics, use ser:

Mi hermana es una mujer guapa. My sister is a beautiful woman.

To express a personal opinion in terms of taste or appearance, use estar:

Mi hermana está hermosa hoy. Today my sister is (looks) pretty.

I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

¡Hasta pronto!

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