Learn Ser vs. Estar with Jack Sparrow

grammar Oct 29, 2020

Ser and Estar are oftentimes tricky to differentiate. After all, they technically both translate into 'to be' 😵

Let's clear up their subtle (but very important) differences:

For starters, ser is used to talk about WHAT something is (in a permanent state), and to describe characteristics that are an essential part of the thing we’re talking about. Estar on the other hand, is used to talk about how something is, so it’s used for conditions, locations, emotions, and actions (temporary states).

Uses of ser:

Place of origin
Example: Es de Nicaragua.
Occupation
Example: Es ingeniero.
Nationality
Example: Es estadounidense.
Religious or political affiliation
Example: Es demócrata.
The material something is made out of
Example: Es de madera.
Possession
Example: Es mío.
Relationship of one person to another
Example: Es su hermana.
Where an event is taking place
Example: La boda es en la catedral de Barcelona.
The hour, day, and date 
Example: Es el 5 de marzo.


The acronym DOCTOR, which stands for Descriptions, Occupations, Characteristics, Time, Origin, and Relationships, can help you remember when to use ser.

Uses of estar
Geographic or physical location
Example: Estamos en Buenos Aires.
State or condition (like emotions)
Example: Estoy contenta porque me voy de vacaciones mañana.
Progressive tenses (-ing)
Example: Estamos comiendo chocolate.

PLACE and LoCo can help you remember when to use estar. PLACE stands for Position, Location, Action, Condition, and Emotion. LoCo stands for Locations and Conditions.

Remember these simple tricks and you'll the difference down in no time!

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