Free Spanish Lesson: Ser vs. Estar

The difference between the verbs Ser and Estar is often confusing for new Spanish learners. Both verbs mean "to be," but they're used in different circumstances.

Learn the conjugations below, then dive into their key differences and test your comprehension with an activity.


Use the verb Ser when you:

  • Tell who a person is
  • Say what a person's profession is
  • Say where a person is from
  • Describe what a person is like (both physically and personality-wise)
  • Tell the time or the date
  • Identify your relationship with someone  

Use the mnemonic D.O.C.T.OR. to help you remember when to use Ser.

Generally, you can think of Ser as the verb that is used for permanent traits.


Use the verb Estar to indicate location, states of being (i.e. physical or mental), and progressive actions.  

In spoken Spanish, some speakers will often omit the first syllable Es- from the conjugated form Está, so brace yourself to hear , as in tá bien meaning “okay.”

Use the mnemonic P.L.A.C.E. to help you remember when to use Estar.

Now that you know the basics, test your comprehension with an interactive activity!

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