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Very basic Spanish: "ser" and "estar", differences and how to know when use them

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  • Very basic Spanish: "ser" and "estar", differences and how to know when use them

    Even if it's a very basic thing, I find a lot of experience people making mistakes with this. Understandable, since in some languages (I'm thinking in English and French) they have just one verb for both ("to be" or "être"). That's why I've decided to give this very simple tips to know when to use each of them.

    You'll find a lot of indications about when to use each of them. For example:
    SER
    -sth or sb features (es guapo)
    -time/date/price (es lunes)
    -property (es mío)
    -material (es de plata)
    -passive voice, action (es contratado)
    -origin (es de Madrid
    -objective (es para comer)

    ESTAR
    -location (está en Madrid)
    -temporary condition (está dormido)
    -ongoing activities (está comiendo)
    -passive voice, condition (está roto)

    I tell my students to apply this golden rule:
    SIEMPRE SOY - AHORA ESTOY (I am always - I am now). So ser means "identification" and estar means "position". More or less.

    Of course, you will still find difficult cases*, but you'll be able to solve complicated cases, like the classics:
    Ser/Estar aburrido (to be a dull person / to be bored)
    Ser/Estar caro (to be expensive always / to be expensive, today)
    Ser/Estar listo (to be intelligent / to be ready)
    Ser/Estar guapo (to be attractive / to be wearing something that suits you)
    Ser/Estar malo (to be evil / to be in bad condition or ill)
    Ser/Estar abierto (to be open-minded / to be open)
    Etc.

    *I’m thinking about long-term situations (professions, students) and some characteristics (like craziness). Even in those cases we can find some logical thinking… But other exceptions will be really welcome here!
    Last edited by Victor Zamorano; 12-16-2017, 11:33 AM.
    www.lingostan.com

  • #2
    Thanks for this Victor!

    Compared to English this is a very complicated idea and can be hard to process in the speed of everyday speech. These examples are extremely helpful and will live long in the memory.

    Practice makes perfect I guess!

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    • #3
      Thank you Victor. It's some years since I learnt some Spanish aqnd this was a useful reminder. I found the "classics" list very interesting!

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      • #4
        A really basic thing as you say, Laury, but is always good to find it in a simple way. The golden rule "siempre SOY - ahora ESTOY" always gave me good results with my students.
        www.lingostan.com

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        • #5
          Thanks for that. I think there's a similar distinction in Italian.

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