Ser vs estar: difference

Today we are going to be studying the uses and structures associated with the verbs “SER” and “ESTAR” (To be).

Let’s take a look at these verb tables using SER and ESTAR:

The verb SER is very irregular:

Only the first person singular of ESTAR is irregular, the rest follow the same pattern as verbs in the first conjugation group: verbs ending in -AR.

Yo

Él, ella, usted
Nosotros, nosotras
Vosotros, vosotras
Ellos, ellas
Soy
Eres
Es
Somos
Sois
Son
Yo

Él, ella, usted
Nosotros, nosotras
Vosotros, vosotras
Ellos, ellas
Estoy
Estás
Está
Estamos
Estáis
Están

SER

The structure is: NOUN + SER + ADJECTIVE

With SER we use adjectives. Adjectives are words that describe and explain the characteristics of a noun: famous, touristic, old, beautiful.

Now let’s take a look at a word list, you can look up any words you don’t know and write down their meaning. These words (adjectives) are normally found in the masculine form in which they end with -o. For example: famoso (famous). But now all the words are in the femenine form.

Barcelona esfamosa
bonita
turística
antigua
moderna
tranquila
segura
peligrosa
limpia
sucia
pequeña
aburrida

All of these adjectives are femenine because they end in -a. They are femenine because they refer to “Barcelona” which is a femenine noun.


ESTAR

The structure is: noun + ESTAR + en + place

With the verb ESTAR we can refer to geographical location: in Spain, in the north of the country, in the centre of Barcelona. 

Barcelona está en Europa. Barcelona is in Europe. 

Careful! We say in Spain, in Europe but we say en la costa, en la montaña, en la playa (on the coast, in the mountains, at the beach).

With the points of the compass the structure is different:

Noun + ESTAR + en + el + compass point + de + place

In Spanish the points of the compass are: norte (north), Sur (south), este (east), oeste (west)

Barcelona está en el norte de España en el sur de Europa.
Barcelona is in the north of Spain in the South of Europe.


When talking about distance we use cerca (near) and lejos (far): in this case we do not need the preposition “en”: 

Noun + ESTAR + near/far + de + place

Barcelona está cerca de Francia cerca de la playa lejos de China lejos de la montaña.
Barcelona is close to France, near the beach, far from China, far from the the mountains. 


QUESTIONS

To ask about the characteristics of something we can use the questions ¿cómo es? or ¿cómo son? (What is it like? What are they like?)

¿Cómo es Barcelona? Barcelona es muy turística. (What is Barcelona like? Barcelona is very touristic.)

To ask for a geographical location we use ¿Dónde está? ¿Dónde están…? (Where is….? Where are…. ?) 

¿Dónde está Barcelona? Barcelona está en el norte de España. (Where is Barcelona? Barcelona is in the north of Spain.)

CHECK YOURSELF

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Ser y estar

1 / 3

Barcelona ... en España.

2 / 3

Barcelona está cerca ... .

3 / 3

Barcelona está ... España.

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