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Difference between ser and estar

In Spanish we have two verbs (ser and estar) when in most languages they have the same meaning.

In English both verbs mean "to be" and in German, both are "sein". In some romance languages you would find the two verbs, however their uses and meanings are different to those in Spanish.

This is why one of the most frequent problems for Spanish students is to differentiate between these two verbs.

Nevertheless, if we understand the concept they express, it is extremely easy to differentiate them .

We use "ser" to talk about the characteristics of a subject (a person, and animal, a thing)
"El gato es gris" (the cat is grey)

We use "estar" to speak about 2 different things:
1. To speak about locations: "El gato está debajo de la mesa" (The cat is under the table)
2. To speak about the state of a person, an animal or a thing:"el gato está cansado" (the cat is tired)


A state is a consequence of something that happened to the subject. The cat went out at night, as a consequence it is tired.

Many books and teaches will tell you that "ser" is used for permanent ideas and "estar" for situations that change.

This is not so.

Characteristics can not only be permanent: "el gato es gris" (the cat is gray), but they can also be transitory: "el gato es joven" (the cat is young). Likewise, states can be permanent: "el gato está muerto" (the cat is dead); or they can be transitory: "el gato está cansado" (the cat is tired).

The difference between one and the other is their concepts (characteristic or state)

Check our videos about ser and estar on our YouTube cannel. Click on this link: Differences between ser and estar.