The difference between “es” and “está”

Virginia Orozco
May 15, 2022
The difference between “es” and “estár”

One of the first -and classic- problems that Spanish students find when they start learning the language is the difference between the verb “ser” and the verb “estar”; and unfortunately it becomes a struggle for some time.

Fear no more, as we are going to provide a brief explanation so you don’t mess it up when showing your Spanish language skills.

First of all, it’s important to bear in mind that both verbs “ser” and “estar” are one in English: to be. So in order to know the difference and when to use them, a key to start is asking ourselves one simple question: “are we speaking/describing something that is permanent or something that can change?”. 

Alright, as things in life, it’s not so black and white so let’s move to the second part of the previous tip. The verb “ser” is going to be used to describe the characteristics of a person or a thing that are intrinsic, permanent, stable and physical features (color, height, size); basically descriptions that are at least very unlikely to change. 

The verb “estar” on the other hand, will be used for temporal characteristics. We use it to indicate locations and temporal state of a person or an object, like feelings, mood, health, ongoing actions or opinions in terms of taste and appearance.

In this manner, there are adjectives that can only be used with the verb «ser» and others that can only be used with «estar».

But some others can be used with both verbs, taking into account that it will change the meaning of the sentence. For example:


  •  “María es muy bella” o “María está muy bella hoy”

When we use «es» we are implying that Maria is always beautiful, but by using «está» we would just be saying that she looks beautiful today, but it might not always be the case for her. This can also apply for moods: you can be a happy person most of the time and “ser feliz”, or you can be especially happy on a certain day and “estar feliz”, it will all depend on what you are trying to portray.

However, let’s remember that Spanish, as every language has its rules but mostly exceptions – it sucks, I know-, so you will come across some sentences that don’t fit the ‘temporary or permanent’ pattern and there is no need to get frustrated over it (e.g ‘El Obispo está muerto’).

Yes, we talk about death as something temporary, while for some people it might sound as the most permanent thing ever.

So again, don’t get frustrated. Just bear in mind that if you were able to learn your mother tongue by practice, then you know what you have to do with Spanish and Worlds Across has a great variety of fun ways to practice.

¡Acepta el reto y practica con nosotros!

Maybe you want to see this post and learn about the 10 easiest expressions in Spanish for beginners

What are you wating for? Learn the real Spanish!

Virginia Orozco

Virginia Orozco

BA in Modern Languages and Political Scientist. Spanish-English-French Translator. Copywriter. Linguistics and Arts Enthusiast.

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