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Ser vs Estar

 

Ser and estar may be the most confusing verbs for Spanish students, both mean “to be”, and it's hard to know which one to use if you're not familiar with the rules. Ser is used to express what something is, while estar expresses where or how it is.
This table will show the difference between the two:

Ser vs Estar

Ser is used:
-To show possession: la casa es de José (the house belongs to José)

-To show origin: yo soy de Mexico (I´m from Mexico)

-To show what material things are made of:

La falda es de seda, The skirt is (made of) silk

-To express religious or political affiliation:

¿eres Musulmán? (Are you Muslim?)

-To express dates, days, seasons, time, events: Son las tres (It is 03:00) Es el segundo de enero (It’s the second of January)

-To tell a profession: es profesor (he is a teacher)

-To express characteristic: mi hermana es muy inteligente (my sister is very intelligent)

-To express size: Nueva York es grande (NY is big)

-To express length: el texto es largo (The text is long)

-To refer to colors: el cielo es azul (The sky is blue)

In general we use Ser to describe a person, place or thing (possession, origin, essence of things, affiliation, characteristic, size, length, color, personality, profession, etc.). This description is something that does not change at all in some cases, or the change is gradual and slow.

 

Estar is used:

-To express location or position of things & people (not events) whether it’s permanent or temporary: Ella está en su casa (she is in her house).

-To describe a temporary condition or feeling of a person or thing: Tú estás enfermo (You are sick) La escuela está cerrada (The school is closed) Luis (Luis is tired). La ventana está abierta (The window is open)

-To express physical conditions and civil status: su padre está muerto (his father is dead), ella está cansada (she is tired), está casada (she is married)

-Used with the present participle to form the progressive tenses, present and past:
-Mi hijo está jugando. (My son is playing) -Te estaba esperando. (I was waiting for you)

 

Estar in short is used for: location of things or people (not events!), moods, temporary feelings & physical conditions.

 

 

The use of ser or estar can determine the meaning of the sentence.

El profesor es aburrido (The teacher is boring (personality)  El profesor está aburrido (He is bored just in that moment (temporary).

El profesor es nervioso (The teacher is a nervous person). El profesor está nervioso (The teacher is nervous at this moment).

La chica es guapa (the girl is cute). La chica está guapa (the girl looks and only looks cute).

Food is described using ser and estar depending on the meaning:

Los pescados son buenos (in general fish is good) Los pescados estan bien (this fish is good meaning tastes good right now).

So if you are talking about what something is, use ser; if you are talking about how something is, use estar. In general we say estar bien /alegre /triste /de mal humor /aquí /sentado / de pie /muerto and Ser alto/a /guapo/a  /inteligente / hombre/mujer / joven/ de San Antonio/ delgado/a / simpático /fuerte.

 

Verb Tener:

In Spanish the verb tener is used more widely than the verb “to have’ in English, and it’s not only used to express possession but also to help express many other idioms of emotions and state of being. tengo 20 años (I´m 20 years old), tengo hambre (I’m hungry) ¿Qué tienes? (What's up with you? what’s it to you?)...

These are some idiomatic expressions of Tener:

 

Expressions with Tener

no tener cuidado (to not worry): espero que no tengas cuidado. (I don't want you to worry)

no tener nada que ver con (to have nothing to do with) El no tiene nada que ver con el problema (he has nothing to do with the problem)

tener ... Años (to be ... years old): Tengo 20 años (I'm 33 years old)

tener ... de ancho/largo/altura(to be .... wide/long/tall): La casa tiene 45 metros de altura (the house is 45 meters high).

tener calor (to be hot): ¿tienes calor? (Are you hot?)

tener cariño (to be fond): su marido tiene cariño a ella (her husband is fond of her)

tener celos (to be jealous): Tengo celos a mi amiga. (I'm jealous of my friend)

tener cuidado (to be careful): ¡qué tengas cuidado cuando cruces la calle!(be careful when crossing the street)

tener derecho (to have the right): tengo el derecho de expresar mis ideas . (I have the right to express my ideas)

tener en cuenta (to bear in mind): ten en cuenta que tu tienes un fuerza dento de tí (keep in mind that you have a power inside you).

tener éxito (to be successfu)l: para tener éxito, hay que estudiar. (To succeed, we must study)

tener frío (to be cold): Tengo frío. (I'm cold.)

tener ganas de + infinitive (to be in the mood for): no tengo ganas de salir está noche (I don’t feel like going out tonight).

tener hambre (to be hungry): Amigo! Tengo hambre (Hey friend! I’m hungry)

tener ilusión, to be enthusiastic: Tiene ilusión por viajar a los EE.UU (He's enthusiastic about traveling to the U.S)

tener la culp (to be guilty or at fault): no tengo la culpa (it’s not my fault)

tener lugar (to take place): La boda tuvo lugar en la playa(the wedding took place at the beach).

tener miedo a + noun (to be afraid of): tienes miedo a las ranas (you’re scared of frogs)

tener miedo de + infinitive (to be afraid of): ella tiene miedo de cantar. (She’s afraid of singing)

tener por seguro (to rest assured)  Ten por seguro que nuestra misión no termina aquí (rest assured our mission doesn’t end here)

tener prisa (to be in a hurry): lo siento, pero tengo prisa. (Sorry, but I'm in a hurry)

tener razón (to be right): no creo que ella tiene razón. (I don’t think she is right)

tener sed (to be thirsty): me puedes dar un vaso de agua. Tengo sed. (Can you give me a glass of water, I’m thirsty)

tener sueño (to be tired or sleepy): me voy, tengo sueño (I’m leaving, I’m sleepy.)

tener suerte (to be lucky): Tengo  mucha suerte. Porque vivo con buena gente (I’m lucky because I live with nice people)

tener vergüenza (to be embarassed): (tiene verguenza de ser el hijo de un obrero (he is ashamed of being the son of a laborer.)

 

Hay vs Hay Que

 

Hay is used in both singular and plural to express "there is " or "there are" it's used extensively. It is also used in interrogative sentences where it translates as is there? or are there?  Hay una casa grande en la esquina (there is a big house in the corner). Hay dos árboles en nuestro jardín (there are two trees in our garden).

 

Hay que + infinitive is used to express the idea of "one must do something" or, "it is necessary to do something." It is a more general expression and since there is no subject, the verb form hay is always used. hay que estudiar, para tener éxito (one must study to succeed).

So don’t confuse between hay (there is/are) and hay que (one must/have to...).

 

Tener vs. Tener que + infinitive

 

The verb tener is used to mean (to have) in the sense of possession. Tengo una casa muy grande (I have a very big house). ¿tiene él dinero? (Does he have money?)

But tener que + infinitive means "have to": me tengo que ir ahora (I have to go now). no tienes que hacerlo (you don't have to do it).

Hay que + infinitive vs Tener que+ infinitive: they both mean almost the same thing, but tener is a verb while hay is not, therefore tener should be conjugated according to the subject of the sentence. Hay que is more general than tener que, so when we say hay que estudiar para tener éxito (we mean in general we should study to succeed, which may apply for all people, when we say tengo que estudiar para tener éxito (it means only me if i study I will succeed).

 

Summary:

 

Ser vs Estar: Ser is used to express what something is, while estar expresses where or how it is. In general we use Ser to describe a person, place or thing (possession, origin, essence of things, affiliation, characteristic, size, length, color, personality, profession, etc.). This description is something that does not change at all in some cases, or the change is gradual and slow. Estar in short is used for: location of things or people (not events!), moods, temporary feelings & physical conditions.

Tener: In Spanish the verb tener is used more widely than the verb to have in English, and it’s not only used to express possession but also to help express many other idioms of emotions and state of being. tengo 20 años (I´m 20 years old), tengo hambre (I’m hungry) ¿Qué tienes? (What's up with you? what’s it to you?)...

Hay: means there is/are and cannot be conjugated, because it’s not a verb, Hay una casa grande en la esquina (there is a big house in the corner).

Hay que + infinitive is used to express the idea of "one must do something" hay que estudiar, para tener éxito (one must study to succeed)

Tener que + infinitive means "have to": me tengo que ir ahora (I have to go now).

 

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