Difference between Ser and Estar in Spanish

Learning a new language and understanding its complex parts is no easy job especially when some of the words that look different hold the same meaning. Spanish is one such language which has the two words ‘ser’ and ‘estar’; both of which are verbs and mean ‘to be’. There are many new learners of the language who get really confused by these two words and fail to understand how they are used differently.

It is up to students to learn the right context of these words and their usage for better understanding of the Spanish language.


Ser is used to describe things that are permanent or often unchangeable. For example, Yo soy de Estados Unidos. (I am from the United States). The form of ser used in the sentence is soy. One cannot change where they are from. Ser is also used to describe characteristics, professions, religions and nationalities which are unchangeable.

Ser vs Estar in Spanish

Estar is used to describe things that are temporary. For example, Yo estoy en Florida para las vacaciones (I am in Florida for vacation). I am vacationing in Florida, but I am not from there. The best way to understand the right usage of this word is with the help of a rhyme which goes like this, ‘For how you feel or where you are, always use the verb estar’.

Estar is best used to describe emotions and locations which are not permanent and change with time and people.

Ser vs Estar

What is the difference between ser and estar? It does not have to be difficult to understand the correct usage of ser and estar if one makes an effort to understand the context in which they are used. These are common words which are frequently spoken in daily communication in the Spanish language and they differ from each other in the way they explain the state of things or their essence and identity.

The main difference lies in the way these two verbs are used. The correct usage of ser can be best grasped with the acronym DOCTOR, which stands for Description, Occupation, Characteristic, Time, Origin, and Relationship as it classifies and identifies permanent or lasting attributes.

Here are some simple yet very basic examples that indicate the right usage of ser:

  • Yo soy Raúl. (I am Raúl.)
  • Yo soy alta, morena, y delgada. (I am tall, dark-skinned, and thin.)
  • Soy profesora del español. (I am a Spanish teacher.)
  • Amalia es inteligente, atrevida, y amable. (Amalia is intelligent, daring, and friendly.)
  • Hoy es miércoles. (Today is Wednesday.)
  • Celia es de España. (Celia is from Spain.)
  • Lynne es mi madre. (Lynne is my mother.)

On the other hand, the correct usage of estar can be understood with the acronym PLACE, which stands for Position, Location, Action, Condition, and Emotion. It is used to temporary states and locations.

Here are some simple yet very basic examples that indicate the right usage of estar:

  • Mi abuela está sentada. (My grandmother is sitting down/seated.)
  • Yo estaba acostada cuando me llamaste. (I was lying down when you called me.)
  • El baño está a la derecha de la sala. (The bathroom is to the right of the living room.)
  • Estoy lavando los platos sucios. (I am washing the dirty dishes.)
  • Estoy tan cansada esta mañana. (I am so tired this morning.)
  • Estoy triste. (I am sad.)

While ser is all about permanency of things and described things which are facts and will not change, estar is all about temporary facts, emotions and details that change with the passage of time, people and locations.

Comparison Chart

Ser Estar
Ser is all about essence or identity Estar is all about states or conditions
It describes the physical, mental, emotional, and personality of people, things and places which are permanent and lasting It describes people and things, and also the location of people, things, emotions and places at a certain time
It helps to explain the characteristics, personalities, locations and race or gender such as black or white, good or bad, Asian or American and teacher or musician It helps to explain feelings/moods/emotions, physical conditions or appearances, civil states such as sad, happy, married, single, divorced, dead


Here is one very informative and comprehensive video that will help you understand the difference between ser and estar and learn their correct usage too