Some adjectives change meaning when used with ser or estar

Some Spanish adjectives have different meanings when they are used with ser or estar. Here are the most common ones:

Ser bueno vs Estar bueno

Ser bueno refers to being good as in a good person or behaving well while estar bueno refers to something tasting good.

Carlitos, mi sobrino, es muy bueno. Se porta muy bien siempre.
Carlitos, my nephew, is very good. He always behaves.

Carlitos, cómete la tortilla. Está muy buena.
Carlitos, eat the omelette. It is very tasty.

There is also an idiomatic expression to say that "someone is hot" (attractive), and for this we use "estar bueno/-a".

¡Qué músculos tiene Andrés! ¡Está muy bueno!
How muscular Andrés is! He is really hot!

Bear in mind this use is colloquial and generally used among young people.

Ser malo vs Estar malo

Ser malo refers to being a bad person or something being bad quality while estar malo refers to either being ill or to bad food, either that it is not tasty or it is off.

La última película de Almodóvar es mala. No me gusta nada.
The last film by Almodóvar is bad. I don't like it at all.

No uses la mayonesa porque creo que está mala.
Don't use the mayonnaise because I think it's off.

Ser abierto vs Estar abierto

Ser abierto refers to being an open-minded person or having an outgoing personality while estar abierto refers to something being physically open, like a window, a door, a place, or an exhibition.

Mi hijo es muy abierto. Saluda a todo el mundo.
My son is very outgoing. He greets everyone.

¿Crees que la biblioteca está abierta hoy?
Do you think the library is open today?

Ser cerrado vs Estar cerrado

Ser cerrado refers to being a close-minded person or a bit stubborn while estar cerrado refers to something being physically closed, like a window, etc.

¡Mi padre es tan cerrado! No admite otras opiniones, solo la suya.
My dad is so stubborn! He won't accept any other opinions, only his own.

Cuando llegué al pueblo, el ayuntamiento estaba cerrado.
When I arrived in town, the town hall was closed.

Ser listo vs Estar listo

Ser listo refers to a person being clever/intelligent while estar listo means to be ready.

¡Qué listo eres! No puedo creer que contestaras a todas las preguntas.
You are so clever! I can't believe you answered all the questions.

Avisadme cuando estéis listas para ir a recogeros.
Let me know when you are ready for me to pick you up.

Ser atento vs Estar atento

Ser atento refers to the quality of being thoughtful and courteous with other people while estar atento refers to being alert/vigilant/paying attention.

Luis es muy atento con sus invitados. 
Luis is very courteous with his guests.

Niños, necesito que estéis atentos. Esta lección es muy importante.
Children, I need you to pay attention. This lesson is very important.

Ser verde vs Estar verde

Ser verde simply refers to being green as in the colour green while estar verde refers to unripe food, or in reference to people, to being a bit immature or unskilled.

Aquel vestido es verde, no azul.
That dress is green, not blue.

Pobre José, todavía está muy verde en el tema de las chicas.
Poor José, he is still immature about girls.

Ser católico vs Estar católico

Ser católico refers to being of Catholic faith while estar católico refers to feeling well either physically or mentally. It is generally used in the negative.

Mis abuelos paternos y maternos eran todos católicos.
My paternal and maternal grandparents were all Catholic.

Mis abuelos no están muy católicos. Tengo que llevarlos al médico.
My grandparents are not feeling well. I have to take them to the doctor.

Generally, when we use these adjectives with ser they keep the more literal meaning, expressing a permanent quality about someone or something, while estar gives a more figurative meaning.

Also remember that adjectives need to agree with the nouns they refer to.

Here is a list with adjectives that change meaning with ser and estar.

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Mis abuelos no están muy católicos. Tengo que llevarlos al médico.
My grandparents are not feeling well. I have to take them to the doctor.


Avisadme cuando estéis listas para ir a recogeros.
Let me know when you are ready for me to pick you up.


Carlitos, mi sobrino, es muy bueno. Se porta muy bien siempre.
Carlitos, my nephew, is very good. He always behaves.


Pobre José, todavía está muy verde en el tema de las chicas.
Poor José, he is still immature about girls.


Aquel vestido es verde, no azul.
That dress is green, not blue.


Niños, necesito que estéis atentos. Esta lección es muy importante.
Children, I need you to pay attention. This lesson is very important.


Cuando llegué al pueblo, el ayuntamiento estaba cerrado.
When I arrived in town, the town hall was closed.


¡Qué listo eres! No puedo creer que contestaras a todas las preguntas.
You are so clever! I can't believe you answered all the questions.


Luis es muy atento con sus invitados. 
Luis is very courteous with his guests.


¿Crees que la biblioteca está abierta hoy?
Do you think the library is open today?


La última película de Almodóvar es mala. No me gusta nada.
The last film by Almodóvar is bad. I don't like it at all.


No uses la mayonesa porque creo que está mala.
Don't use the mayonnaise because I think it's off.


Mi hijo es muy abierto. Saluda a todo el mundo.
My son is very outgoing. He greets everyone.


Carlitos, cómete la tortilla. Está muy buena.
Carlitos, eat the omelette. It is very tasty.


¡Qué músculos tiene Andrés! ¡Está muy bueno!
How muscular Andrés is! He is really hot!


Mis abuelos paternos y maternos eran todos católicos.
My paternal and maternal grandparents were all Catholic.


¡Mi padre es tan cerrado! No admite otras opiniones, solo la suya.
My dad is so stubborn! He won't accept any other opinions, only his own.


Q&A Forum 1 question, 0 answers

Ser/estar aburrido is another one

Could you please provide a list with the most common ones at the end of the lesson?

Asked 1 week ago

Ser/estar aburrido is another one

Could you please provide a list with the most common ones at the end of the lesson?

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