Spanish Grammar: Ser vs. Estar

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  • 0:07 Introduction
  • 0:33 When to Use Ser
  • 3:07 When to Use Estar
  • 5:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Warren
This video will describe the different uses of the verbs 'ser' and 'estar', both of which translate as 'to be' in English. The video will introduce some acronyms to help students remember and give many different examples of sentences using each verb.


Hola! In this video, we are going to discuss the two Spanish verbs that can be translated as 'to be' in English. That is, ser and estar. It can be confusing for students to understand when to use each verb, but this video will give you the main uses of each one, as well as some helpful acronyms to aid you. Dr. Spanish will be our guide as we work through this tricky concept.


First, Dr. Spanish is going to introduce us to how we use the verb ser in Spanish. Ser is generally thought of as the verb that is used for more permanent or intrinsic qualities. It is used to talk about the things that do not tend to change day-to-day. Dr. Spanish likes to use the acronym DOCTOR to help him remember the uses of ser.

Let's start with the 'D.' This stands for 'description.' We use ser to describe what something is like. For example, El perro es grande. (The dog is big.) Or, Los libros son muy interesantes. (The books are very interesting.)

The next letter is 'O.' This stands for 'occupation.' When we talk about someone's job, we use ser. For example, Yo soy dentista. (I am a dentist.) Occupation can also refer to being a student, so you might see the sentence, Tú eres estudiante. (You are a student.)

Next, we have the letter 'C.' This stands for 'characteristics.' You can see how this is connected to the 'D' for 'description.' We use ser to talk about someone's personality or physical characteristics. So, you might say, Elena es muy amable. (Elena is very friendly.) Or you might say, Ellos son altos. (They are tall.)

Next, is the 'T.' This is for 'time.' We always use ser to talk about what time it is. For example, Son las tres y media. (It is 3:30.) Or, Es mediodía. (It is noon.)

Now, let's look at the second 'O' in the word. This 'O' stands for 'origin.' Ser is used to talk about where a person is from. I might say, Soy de los Estados Unidos. (I am from the United States.) Or, Somos de México. (We are from Mexico.)

Finally, we have the 'R.' This stands for 'relationship.' Ser is used to talk about the relationship between a person or object to another person or object. For example, Pedro es el hermano de Paco. (Pedro is Paco's brother.) Or, Estos son mis libros. (These are my books.)

And those are the main uses of ser! Just remember DOCTOR - Description, Occupation, Characteristics, Time, Origin and Relationship!


Now, Dr. Spanish is going to teach us about how to use estar. Estar is generally thought of as the verb that is used for more changeable or impermanent qualities. It is used to discuss things that are more likely to change each day. It is also used to discuss where things are. Dr. Spanish uses the acronym PLACE to help him remember the uses of estar.

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