Hi, this is Andrés. I’m glad you’re interested in learning more about the difference between ser and estar, two verbs that mean “to be” in Spanish. In this blog post, I’ll explain how to use these verbs correctly and give you some examples to practice.


Ser vs Estar: What’s the Difference?


One of the most common challenges for Spanish learners is to understand the difference between ser and estar, two verbs that have the same translation in English: “to be”. However, in Spanish, they are not interchangeable and have different meanings and uses.

Simply put, ser is used to talk about permanent states, while estar is used to talk about temporary conditions. In English, you would use the verb “to be” for both, but in Spanish they have somewhat different meanings. Another way to explain their difference is that ser talks about what something is and estar talks about how something is.

To help you remember when to use each verb, you can use the acronyms DOCTOR and PLACE. DOCTOR stands for Descriptions, Occupations, Characteristics, Time, Origin, and Relationships. These are the situations where you should use ser. PLACE stands for Position, Location, Action, Condition, and Emotion. These are the situations where you should use estar.

Let’s take a look at each of these situations in more detail and see some examples.


When to Use Ser


1. Descriptions

Descriptions are the essential qualities that define a person or thing and probably won’t change anytime soon. These descriptions can be names, physical descriptions, nationalities, and even religions.


  1. Yo soy Raúl. (I am Raul.)
  2. Yo soy alta, morena, y delgada. (I am tall, dark-skinned, and thin.)
  3. Bob es inglés. (Bob is English.)
  4. Andrés es católico. (Andres is Catholic.

2. Occupations

An occupation is what someone does for a living or as a hobby. Basically, if you’re talking about how someone makes money or fills their time, you’ll use ser.


  • Soy profesora de español. (I am a Spanish teacher.)
  • Ellos son estudiantes. (They are students.)
  • Mi padre era jardinero. (My father was a gardener.)
  • Juanita es bailarina. (Juanita is a dancer.)

Notice that the indefinite articles un, una, unos, and unas may not be used when talking about occupations with ser. They’re often only included if extra information following the occupation is given.


  • Es doctora. (She’s a doctor.)
  • Es una doctora que tiene vocación por ayudar a sus pacientes. (She’s a doctor who’s dedicated to helping her patients.)

3. Characteristics

Characteristics are personality descriptions of a person. This category is included to hammer home the point that ser is used to talk about descriptions.


  • Amalia es inteligente, atrevida, y amable. (Amalia is intelligent, daring, and friendly.)
  • Mi esposo es romántico y cariñoso. (My husband is romantic and caring.)

4. Time

Time can refer to days, dates, years, and the time on the clock.


  • Hoy es miércoles. (Today is Wednesday.)
  • Ayer fue mi cumpleaños. (Yesterday was my birthday.)
  • Ahora es la una. (Right now it is one o’clock.)
  • Son las cinco veinticinco. (It’s five twenty-five.)

5. Origin

The place a person or thing is from or the material something is made of can be considered an origin.


  • Celia es de España. (Celia is from Spain.)
  • Este chocolate es de México. (This chocolate is from Mexico.)
  • Las sillas son de madera. (The chairs are made of wood.)
  • Mi anillo es de oro. (My ring is made of gold.)

6. Relationships

Personal relationships, such as family ties, friendship, and romantic relationships, are also talked about using ser.


  • Carlos y Gabriela son esposos. (Carlos and Gabriela are spouses.)
  • Ella es mi mejor amiga. (She is my best friend.)
  • Él es mi novio. (He is my boyfriend.)


When to Use Estar


1. Position

Position refers to the physical position or posture of a person or thing.


  • El libro está en la mesa. (The book is on the table.)
  • Ella está sentada en el sofá. (She is sitting on the couch.)
  • Los niños están acostados en la cama. (The children are lying in bed.)

2. Location

Location refers to the geographic or physical location of a person or thing. This is different from origin, which is used with ser.


  • El estadio está en el centro de la ciudad. (The stadium is downtown.)
  • Nosotros estamos en Colombia. (We are in Colombia.)
  • ¿Dónde estás? (Where are you?)

3. Action

Action refers to the progressive tenses, which indicate an action that is in progress at the moment of speaking. The progressive tenses are formed with estar and the present participle of the main verb.


  • Estoy escribiendo un blog post. (I am writing a blog post.)
  • Ellos están comiendo pizza. (They are eating pizza.)
  • ¿Qué estás haciendo? (What are you doing?)

4. Condition

Condition refers to the physical or mental state of a person or thing. This can include health, appearance, mood, or any other temporary state that can change.


  • Estoy enfermo. (I am sick.)
  • La puerta está abierta. (The door is open.)
  • María está de buen humor. (María is in a good mood.)
  • El pastel está delicioso. (The cake is delicious.)

5. Emotion

Emotion refers to the feelings or emotions of a person4. This is also a temporary state that can change.


  • Estoy feliz. (I am happy.)
  • Ellos están tristes. (They are sad.)
  • ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)

Ser vs Estar: The Game



I hope this blog post has helped you understand the difference between ser and estar, two verbs that mean “to be” in Spanish but have different meanings and uses depending on the situation.

Remember to use ser for permanent states and what something is, and use estar for temporary conditions and how something is.

If you want to learn more about Spanish grammar, vocabulary, and culture, you can check out my other blog posts.

Thank you for reading and happy learning! 😊

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