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ser and estar difference

Ser vs estar, the ultimate battle to teach and learn in Spanish. When I was a student I remember my high school Spanish teacher using the tune of “Are You Sleeping?” “Fere Jacques” to help us understand the difference. So what is the difference between ser and estar? I sum it up in one easy statement: ser is for more permanent facts while estar is related to temporary emotions, adjectives, etc. Of course there are exceptions, like telling time (ser), or being married (estar), but today we’re focusing on the basics. I have resources for both students and teachers in this blog, so keep reading to see how easy I make it for you (the learner) or your students (if you’re a teacher).

This is the song my Spanish teacher taught me using the “Are You Sleeping” tune.

spanish-songs-for-kids
Use this Spanish song for kids to help them learn ser vs estar.
Translation:
I am crazy/you are crazy/you and I/you and I/you are mean/we are enemies/you and I/you and I
I am here/you are there/you and I/you and I/we are at home/we are fighting/you and I/You and I

verbo estar

Are you or your students ready to start talking about how you feel and what you’re doing in Spanish? Let’s talk about you!

  • How are you feeling right now? – I’m in a good mood because I’m finally learning how to use estar. 😍
  • Is your room clean or messy? It’s clean! – use estar 😄 
  • Was your last meal tasty? Yes, it tasted delicious! – use estar 😋

All of the sentences above use the verb estar because they’re describing something temporary.

What does el verbo estar really mean though? The verb estar means “to be” in English. We conjugate it as follows:

I am
You are
He/she/it is
We are
You all/you guys are
They are

So when you said, I’m in a good mood. In Spanish you’d say, “Estoy de buen humor”. Before we continue, remember, there are two versions of “to be” in Spanish. Use estar to describe more temporary things such as emotions or the state of something in the moment.

What does that look like in Spanish? Take a look at the estar conjugation.

estar conjugation

In order to remember the estar conjugation practice repeating it. Sing it using the tune from La Raspa: “estoy, estás, está, estamos, estás, están”.

estar-conjugation
Estar conjugation to help you understand ser vs estar

Now that you understand estar, let’s discuss ser.

verbo ser

Are you or your students ready to describe yourself and others in Spanish? Let’s start with your best friend or your closest relative. How would you describe their personality, their physical features? What do they do for work?

My best friend is

  • short
  • beautiful
  • caring
  • hardworking

Notice how these descriptions typically don’t change. Use ser for more permanent adjectives.

What does that look like in Spanish? Take a look at the ser conjugation.

ser conjugation

In order to remember how to use ser, sing the song at the beginning of this article using the “Are You Sleeping” tune. If you want to remember the ser conjugation it’s also a good idea to do drills. Repeat the conjugation over and over until it become second nature.

ser-conjugation
Ser conjugation to help you better understand ser vs estar

sentences using estar

To create correct sentences using estar, follow the rule, “for how you feel and where you are, always use the verb estar.” That memorable little rhyme is something you can fall back on when you’re not sure whether to choose ser or estar.

sentences-using-estar
A little tip for remembering when to use estar.

Example Sentences Using Estar

  • Estoy contenta. I’m happy.
  • Estoy de mal/buen humor. I’m in a bad/good mood.
  • Mi casa está limpia. My house is clean.
  • Mis hijos están durmiendo. My kids are sleeping.
  • Estamos en la escuela. We are at school.

Now you try some sentences using estar! You can leave a comment below with your sentences. 😎

sentences using ser

Sentences using ser should be more permanent descriptions such as occupation, characteristics, and origin.

Example sentences using ser:

  • Soy de los Estados Unidos. I’m from the United States.
  • Eres inteligente. You are intelligent.
  • Mi abuelo es alto. My grandpa is tall.
  • Somos maestros. We are teachers.
  • Ustedes son buena gente. You guys are good people.

Now you try some sentences using ser! You can leave a comment below with your sentences. 👩🏻‍💻

ser y estar ejercicios

Anytime you’re teaching or learning a language you should follow a specific template: direct instruction (notes on a grammar lesson or vocabulary lesson), guided practice (the teacher works with the students using the grammar and vocabulary in context), independent practice (students work individually, with partners or in a group), and games or activities to put it all into context.

ser-y-estar-ejercicios
ser y estar ejercicios for beginners

ser vs estar powerpoint

Using a ser vs estar powerpoint can help students learn how to conjugate and do guided practice with you. You’ll love using a ser vs estar powerpoint to create a 3 day lesson plan that you can use for years to come.

ser-vs-estar-powerpoint
My ser vs estar powerpoint comes with animations so you can reveal answers one by one. It will be available soon.
ser-vs-estar-powerpoint
Break down the exceptions of ser vs estar in a powerpoint with animations. It will be available soon.
ser-vs-estar-powerpoint
Compare the difference in the meaning of adjectives in a ser vs estar powerpoint. It will be available soon.

ser and estar practice

To ensure you or your students retain the information it’s necessary to do some ser and estar practice. My favorite way to have students practice is with sorting activities and speaking activities.

ser-and-estar-practice

ser vs estar activities

Ideas for ser vs estar activities include:

  • turn and talk
  • partner speaking with fill in the blank cards to assist
  • true or false – Is the use of ser or estar correct?
  • sorting sentences with ser and estar
  • board races with ser and estar sentences
  • describe a friend or family member in a comic strip
ser-vs-estar-activities
In these ser vs estar activities students first sort the verbs then they do a more difficult task with a speaking activity, later they produce the language and speak again.

ser vs estar worksheet

For my ser vs estar worksheet I have students do fill-in-the-blank sentences choosing the correct verb and they have to state why it’s ser or estar. I also have them translate sentences so they can practice producing the language.

ser-vs-estar-worksheet
ser vs estar worksheet options

With notes, guided practice, worksheets and activities, by the end of this three day lesson you or your students will have an excellent grasp of ser vs estar. You can click here for the lesson plan.

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