One of the most confusing aspects of learning Spanish as an English speaker is the word “to be”. I am a dog. I am happy. I am in Spain. In Spanish, they have two versions of “to be”: SER and ESTAR. Each word is used for different situations. There a ton of rules and lots of exceptions.
In fact, a whole chapter in most grammar books is devoted to this one subject. Pages and pages of rules and exercises–it’s all so confusing and a COMPLETE WASTE OF YOUR TIME.
In this Spanish Quickie, I give you my “street Spanish” rule for ser and estar. I’m not saying this is absolutely grammatically correct…I’m sure it’s not. But I’ve been using and learning Spanish in REAL LIFE for over 11 years now and this is the rule that I use for myself when I’m not sure. This one rule with 2 exceptions will cover over 90% of the situations you find yourself in.
Estar for temporary things
Ser for permanent things
Yo soy feliz means “I am a happy personal generally speaking” (permanent)
Yo estoy feliz means “I am happy right now” (temporary)
Two exceptions that don’t fit that description perfectly:
1. Profession — uses ser. We think as professions as temporary things these days. I do marketing today, I could be an accountant or trash man tomorrow. But back in the day, these were permanent situations, so professions use ser.
2. Location — uses estar. For people, it’s real easy. Yo estoy en el mercado (I’m in the market). I move around and location is temporary so it fits the rule above. But for buildings that don’t move, you still use estar even though the building is always in the same place–El edificio esta en calle 8 (the building is on street 8).
So real quick recap:
RULE: Estar for temporary and Ser for permanent
EXCEPTIONS: Profession uses ser (Yo soy comercial–I am a salesman) and location uses estar (Estoy en casa or El mercado esta por alli).
See you for the next Spanish Quickie!
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