Are You Smart and Are You Ready? 

December 27, 2023

¿Eres Listo y Estás Listo?

Ser o Estar y Adjetivos Cambiantes 

One of the trickiest parts of learning Spanish, especially for new learners (like me), is when to use ser and when to use estar. It’s confusing because unlike English, Spanish has two ways to express “to be,” ser and estar. The differences between them sometimes feel small, but those differences are really important. Spanish speakers use each verb in specific situations and they express distinct ideas that can change the whole meaning of a statement.  

As a simple, easy-to-remember, general concept for now – Ser is used when something is fundamentally a certain way, its essence, a permanent state, and it’s unlikely to change, and Estar is used for temporary states, conditions, qualities, and locations.

In future blog posts, we will dive into more of the distinctions and ways to use ser and estar correctly. 

Trust that with time and practice, and with helpful instruction and conversations here at Boulder Spanish, your knowledge of how and when to correctly use ser and estar will become easier and feel a more natural part of your Spanish communication. 

For now, let’s examine one frequent and effective construction that is very helpful in conversation and also helps clarify the distinctions between ser and estar

Ser or Estar + Adjective (Adjetivo)

An important aspect of the ser versus estar choice includes that particular adjectives in Spanish work well with either of the verbs but these adjectives change their meaning depending on if they are used with ser or estarFascinante, ¿sí?

In English, when we want to say someone is smart or someone is ready, we use those two different adjectives, “smart” or “ready,” and the same verb, “to be.” In Spanish, one adjective, the same adjective, can change meaning depending on if the adjective is used with either ser or estar.

Por ejemplo:

Ser: Sara es lista. (Sara is smart.) – A permanent quality, the essence of Sara.

Estar:  Sara está lista. (Sara is ready.) – A temporary quality or condition of Sara. 

Learning some of these phrases using Ser o Estar + Adjetivo will actually help with the struggle of when to use ser or estar because the adjectives emphasize the choice of permanent or temporary qualities being expressed. 

And don’t forget, with Spanish adjectives, you always have to consider gender and number. The form of most Spanish adjectives changes depending on if the noun they are modifying is masculine or feminine, and also if it’s singular or plural.  

Por ejemplo:

Ser: Las familias que viven aquí son ricas. (The families that live here are rich.) – A permanent quality, feminine and plural.

Estar: Este plato de pescado está rico. (This fish dish is tasty.) – A temporary quality, masculine and singular. 

Here is a list of some of the most frequently used adjectives that change meaning when used with either ser or estar. Learning these adjectives and practicing them when you speak Spanish will enhance your conversations and improve your understanding of when to choose ser or estar. These changing adjectives will help you distinguish between more permanent (ser) or more temporary (estar) qualities of what our want to express. 

Ser: aburrido - to be boring Esta clase no es aburrida. (This class isn’t boring.)

Estar: aburrido - to be bored Mis hijos esta aburridos hoy. (My sons are bored today.)

Ser: orgulloso - to be prideful, haughty Ese rey es muy orgulloso. (That king is very prideful.)

Estar: orgulloso - to be proud Estoy orgullosa de ti. (I’m proud of you.)

Ser: borracho - to be a drunk Tú no eres una borracha. (You are not a drunk.)

Estar: borracho - to be drunk Después de tres tequilas, creo que estoy borracho. (After three tequilas, I think I’m drunk.)

Ser: distraído - to be absentminded Él es un profesor distraído. (He is an absentminded professor.)

Estar: distraído - to be distracted Estamos distraídos por la lluvia. (We are distracted because of the rain.)

Ser: interesado - to be selfish, self-interested Luke es un interesado. (Luke is a self-interested person.)

Estar: interesado - to be interested Ella está interesada en este libro. (She is interested in this book.)

Ser: libre - to be free, unrestrained Los pájaros son libres. (The birds are free.)

Estar: libre - to be unoccupied La jefe está libre este tarde. (The boss is free this afternoon.)

Ser: listo - to be smart, clever Ese gato es listo, ¿no? (That cat is smart, isn't he?)

Estar: listo - to be ready Ahora ellas están listas. (Now they are ready.)

Ser: rico - to be rich, wealthy Esa actriz famosa es muy rica. (That famous actress is very rich.)

Estar: rico - to be tasty, delicious Los postres aquí están ricos. (The desserts here are delicious.)

Ser: seguro - to be safe, secure Es muy importante que te sientas segura. (It’s very important that you feel safe.)

Estar: seguro - to be sure, certain ¿Estás seguro? (Are you sure?)

Ser: solo - to be lonely Me sentí sola el invierno pasado. (I felt lonely last winter.)

Estar: solo - to be alone Ella prefiere estar sola. (She prefers to be alone.)

Ser: verde - to be green (color), inexperienced Aquellos arboles son verdes. (Those trees are green.)

Estar: verde - to be unripe Esta banana está verde. (This banana unripe.)

Ser: bueno - to be a good person Las enfermeras son buenas. (The nurses are good people.)

Estar: bueno - to be attractive, sexy ¡Ese tipo está bueno! (That guy is hot!)

Ser: malo - to be a bad person Su madre es mala. (His mother is bad.)

Estar: malo - to be sick (people) or expired (food) Estoy malo. ¿La leche esta mala? (I’m sick. Is the milk bad?)

Ser: pesado - to be annoying Mi hermano mayor es un pesado. (My older brother is annoying.) 

Estar: pesado - to be heavy Esas maletas están pesadas. (Those suitcases are heavy.) 

In upcoming blog posts, we will look at some adjectives in Spanish that only work with ser and others that only work with estar

Today, have fun learning these changing adjectives! ¡Hoy diviértete aprendiendo estos adjetivos cambiantes!

¿Ustedes estan listos? Estoy segura de que ustedes son muy listos. 

Hasta pronto,