Ser or Estar?

Two ways of saying "to be"

Unlike in English, we have two ways of saying to be in Spanish: ser or estar.  

This is one of the most common causes of confusion for English speakers as you only have one: to be.
It needs quite a lot of practice to master it, so don't worry if you don't get it the first time (or the second time).

Nevertheless, it is necessary to keep practising as sometimes using the wrong verb can change the meaning of the sentence completely!

Have a look at these two sentences and see how the meaning changes:

Miguel es bueno.
Miguel is good. [i.e. Miguel is a good boy.]

Miguel está bueno.
Miguel is "hot". [i.e. Miguel is good looking/sexy.]

Depending on the type of sentence/context we use one or the other.

DOCTOR CLIF:

This helpful abbreviation can help you remember the basic cases of when to use Ser or Estar (but there are more!):

Use Ser for DOCTOR:
D = Description

O = Origin
C = Character
T = Time
O = Occupation
R = Relationship

Use Estar for CLIF:
C = Condition
L = Location
I = -ing verbs (progressive tenses)
F = Feelings


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