Lesson 10 - Descripción de Personas (Describing People)
Navigation: Home → Course → Lesson 10 → ser/estar/tener
Pages in this lesson: Physical Descriptions - ser/estar/tener - Dialogue - Reading - Quiz
This page: Learn the differences between the verbs ser, estar and tener.
What's the difference between the verbs ser, estar and tener? It can be confusing because both ser and estar mean to be in English. The verb tener means to have but is used sometimes when we would use the verb to be in English. Learn about the differences between these three verbs in this lesson.
|usted, él, ella||es||está||tiene|
|ustedes, ellos, ellas||son||están||tienen|
The verb ser is used as to be (am, is, are) when you are talking about permanent or more-or-less permanent characteristics. It could be argued that things like your nationality, occupation or religion could change, but these are considered to be characteristics of a person, not conditions, and so they are used with ser.
In lesson 7 you learned that we use the verb ser with time (although time is not a permanent characteristic).
Where an event is taking place sounds like it would be used with estar because it's a location, but it is used with ser. If you describe where a building is located, however, you would use estar. It's a little confusing, but just remember that as a general rule estar is used with location, but if you are talking about an event and you can substitute the words "take place" (or taking place or whatever), that's a clue that you should use ser.
The verb estar is used as to be (am, is, are) with conditions or locations.
Death is obviously a permanent condition, but the verb estar is used to say that someone is dead.
We hope that marriage is forever, but the verb estar is used in Spanish to say that someone is married, divorced or single. Just think of marital status as a condition.
But if you say that someone is your husband, wife, ex, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. you are saying their relationship to you. When describing a relationship, you use ser.
Sometimes the meaning of a sentence can change depending on the verb you use. The following adjectives have different meanings if they are used with the verb ser or estar. Note that when the adjective is used with ser, it is a characteristic. When it is used with estar, it is a condition.
|ser aburrido = to be boring||estar aburrido = to be bored|
|ser cansado = to be tiring||estar cansado = to be tired|
|ser listo = to be clever||estar listo = to be ready|
|ser bueno = to be good||estar bueno = to be good-tasting (delicious)|
|ser malo = to be bad||estar malo = to be sick|
|ser rico = to be rich (money)||estar rico = to be tasty (flavor)|
|ser seguro = to be safe||estar seguro = to be certain|
If you use the verb ser it can mean that the adjective is a permanent characteristic of the person, but if you use it with estar you are saying that they look that way today.
The verb tener, as you learned in lesson 6, means to have. The verb tener is also used, however, to describe someone's age and with a noun to describe certain conditions.
In Spanish the verb tener is used when you describe how old someone is. You talk about how many years someone has.
Sometimes in Spanish the verb tener is used with a noun, where in English we would use the verb to be and an adjective.
|tener + noun||Translation|
|tener frío||to be cold|
|tener calor||to be hot|
|tener hambre||to be hungry|
|tener miedo||to be scared|
|tener sed||to be thirsty|
|tener sueño||to be sleepy|
Translate the sentences using the tener + noun phrases. Don't forget to use correct capitalization, accents and punctuation, or the computer will mark it as incorrect.
Select the correct verb. There is a hint in parenthesis to help you pick the correct verb.
Now no more hints. Try to figure out what the correct verb is based on the rules you learned in this lesson.
Use the words provided to make a sentence. Also, add the correct verb (ser/estar/tener) and put it in the correct form. If there is an adjective, put it in the correct form (masculine/feminine/singular/plural). Make sure that you use correct punctuation and capitalization, or the computer will mark it as incorrect.
Find the mistake in the sentence and re-write it correctly in the space. Don't forget to use correct capitalization, accents and punctuation, or the computer will mark it as incorrect.
Write one sentence about you with ser, one with estar and one with tener.
If you want to type a special character (like an accented letter) in the comments section, you could do one of the following . . .
If you see an error in someone else's sentence, please respond with the correction. Comments that are not from "Janet Castrejon" (the author of this page) do not represent Simplified Spanish. If someone is writing inappropriate comments on this webpage, please send a message to [email protected] and include the page that you saw the comment on.