What is the difference between ser and estar?

Describing people
Unlike english, Spanish has two verbs for "to be": ser and estar. As a general rule ser  is used to describe or answer questions about who or what something is, while estar describes how or where something is. Another way of saying this would be to say that ser indicates a permanent feature and estar indicates a temporary condition
-"Está borracho" = he is drunk [temporary conition]
 - "Es borracho"= he is a drunkard [permanent feautre, a description of character, not state]

NOTE: Common exeptions to this include the adjectives pobre, rico, feliz, infeliz, inocente, culpable (poor, rich, happy, unhappy, innocent, guilty) which are all almost always preceded by ser when used to describe people. 

Jobs and occupations always go with ser 
e.g. "Soy médico"   "I am a doctor"

       "Es abogado"  "He is a lawyer"


Estar is used to describe the location of objects. "El libro está en el estante" = "The book is on the shelf.
However, ser must be used for the location of events as opposed to people or things "¿Dónde es la fiesta?"

Thomas B. GCSE Spanish tutor, IB Spanish tutor, 13 Plus  Spanish tuto...

2 months ago

Answered by Thomas, a GCSE Spanish tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Dominika K. IB Chemistry tutor, A Level Chemistry tutor, IB Spanish t...
View profile
£18 /hr

Dominika K.

Degree: Biomedical sciences (Bachelors) - Edinburgh University

Subjects offered: Spanish, Chemistry


“I am a first year student of Biomedical Sciences in Edinburgh. I was born in Spain but my parents are from Poland, so I speak both languages. Last year I finishedstudying the International Baccalaureate and the Spanish Baccalaureate a...”

MyTutor guarantee

Danielle M. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Spanish tut...
View profile
£18 /hr

Danielle M.

Degree: Spanish and French Studies (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: Spanish, French


“About me: My name is Danielle and I am about to be a final year student of French and Spanishat Warwick University. I spent the last twelve months on my year abroad, where I was a student at Málaga University in Spain and University ...”

Ella  H. A Level History tutor, 13 plus  History tutor, GCSE History ...
View profile
£18 /hr

Ella H.

Degree: History with a European Language (Bachelors) - University College London University

Subjects offered: Spanish, History+ 3 more

Extended Project Qualification
English Literature
-Personal Statements-

“About MeI completed my A-Levels in History, Spanish and English Literature in 2015 and now study History with Spanish at University College London. I am passionate about all three subjects and havea wide range of knowledge about them...”

About the author

Thomas B. GCSE Spanish tutor, IB Spanish tutor, 13 Plus  Spanish tuto...
View profile
£18 /hr

Thomas B.

Degree: Comparative Literature (Masters) - University College London University

Subjects offered: Spanish, Portuguese+ 3 more

English Literature
English Language

“I'm currently studying for my masters in Comparative Literature, which involves comparing literature across different languages and cultures and in different historical contexts. It's pretty broad and it gives me the opportunity to un...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other GCSE Spanish questions

What is the difference between 'por' and 'para'?

What is the difference between the perfect/imperfect/preterite tenses?

How to make a noun plural

¿Cuándo se utiliza el pretérito perfecto, el imperfecto y el pretérito? = When do you use the perfect, the imperfect and the indicative past?

View GCSE Spanish tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss