Piece of Spanish Cake

The Auxiliary Verb: To Be



The auxiliary verbs ‘Ser’ and ‘Estar’ are both translated as ‘To be’.











I am



You are




He/She/It is




We are




You are




They are



Use of Auxiliary Verbs in Spanish

As stated previously, in English we use the auxiliary verb ‘to be’ conjugating it according to the subject pronoun. In Spanish, there are two forms of the auxiliary verb, both identical in form and meaning to the verb ‘to be.’ Therefore, construction of the Spanish sentence requires an extra step in choosing the correct verb – namely, ‘ser’ or ‘estar.’ Only after having successfully chosen the correct verb we can conjugate it. We will now contrast the usage of the two verbs.


Use the Verb ‘Estar’ When Portraying:

a. A temporary state: feelings or conditions (sad, broken, etc.)

1. The cards are wet Las cartas están mojadas
2. The baby is sad El bebé está triste
3. The chair is broken La silla está rota



b. A geographic or physical location

1. You are in Peru (Ustedes*) están en Perú
2. Are you-formal in the house? ¿Está (usted) en la casa?
3. I am in the USA (Yo) estoy en los Estados Unidos
* The subject pronouns are in parenthesis because in Spanish they are optional (explained later on in this chapter).


c. In the progressive tenses:

I am dancing (Yo) estoy bailando


Use the Verb ‘Ser’ When Describing Inherent or Essential Qualities (tall, thin, handsome…)

1. She is from here (Ella) es de aquí
2. You are workers (Ustedes) son trabajadores
3. I am thin (Yo) soy delgada


List of uses of the verb ‘Ser’

  • Inherent qualities
  • Occupation
  • Nationality, place of origin, religious or political affiliation
  • Hour, day, and date
  • Possession




Ser Estar
Spanish English Spanish English

(Tú) eres una viajera

You are a traveler

(Él) está feliz

He is happy

(Ella) es baja

She is short

(Ellas) están en París

They are in Paris

(Ud.) es de Francia

You-formal are from France

(Nosotros) estamos mojados

We are wet

(Uds.) son de aquí

You-all are from here

(Ellos) están en la playa

They are in the beach

(Yo) soy delgado

I am thin

(Yo) estoy cansada

I am tired

(Tú) eres alta

You are tall

(Uds.) están satisfechos

You-all are satisfied

(Nosotros) somos gordos

We are fat

(Tú) estás triste

You are sad

(Uds.) son obreras

You-all are workers

(Ella) está enamorada

She is in love

(Él) es un carpintero

He is a carpenter





The Auxiliary Verbs Are Not Gender-Specific

The auxiliary verbs, as all other verbs in Spanish, are conjugated identically for masculine and feminine word forms.


The Use of Verbs and Subject Pronouns

I am from here (Yo) soy de aquí


In English we must use the subject pronoun (I) and the verb (am).
In Spanish we must use the verb (Ser Soy), but we can omit the subject pronoun (Yo). We can say: (Yo) soy de aquí. The subject pronoun, ‘Yo’, was put between parentheses because, as stated, we can omit it, as we have done in future examples.


We will use the subject pronoun and the verb in cases where it might be more difficult to understand who we are referring to.

In the sentence ¿Son de los Estados Unidos? It is not clear if we mean ‘Ellos/Ellas’ (They) or ‘Ustedes’ (You-all.)


Borderline ‘Ser’ and ‘Estar’

The distinction between ‘Ser’ and ‘Estar’ depends on the content of the sentence. We can construct the sentence identically, but with a different auxiliary verb, depending on the desired meaning to be conveyed.

The sky is grey (temporarily) El cielo está gris
The sky is blue (permanently) El cielo es azul


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