Ser and Estar - Two Verbs meaning "to be"
Ser is used as a true auxiliary, when it forms the passive voice.
Estar is an auxiliary when it forms the progressive tenses, as
Estoy escribiendo (I am writing).
Estaba escribiendo (he was writing).
The difficulty in the employment of ser and estar is, by some, unduly magnified. Others give the following rule:
Ser denotes a permanent state.
Estar denotes a temporary state.
This rule should not be adopted because often it would not apply, as the following two Examples will show:
Él es soldado porque se ha alistado por dos años.
He is a soldier as he has enlisted for two years.
Aquellos montes están eternamente cubiertos de nieve.
Those mountains are perpetually covered with snow.
The following simple and true rules will enable the student to understand the difference between ser and estar and to apply them correctly.
Ser is used:
1. To form the Passive Voice, as:
- La nieve es blanca: Snow is white.
- El hombre es mortal: Man is mortal.
Estar is used to denote--
1. State in locality, viz., to be in a place, as:
I am here.
Londres está en Inglaterra.
London is in England.
2. A condition, as:
I am tired.
He is ill.
Ser must be used--
1. Before any noun (even if an adjective or article intervenes), as:
I am a merchant.
Es un corredor de cambios bien conocido.
He is a well-known exchange broker.
Son buenos valores.
They are good securities.
2. When "to be" is used to denote possession, as:
Los trapiches son de estos fabricantes.
The sugar mills belong to these makers.
3. When "to be" us used impersonally, as:
Es necesario tomar medidas legales.
It is necessary to take legal proceedings.
4. Before the words "Feliz," "Infeliz," "Pobre," and "Rico."
Está activando sus esfuerzos.
He is making still further efforts.
Estamos extendiendo nuestras relaciones.
We are extending our connection.