All posts, Language

To be, or not to be


(Speak any Spanish? If so, you may as well read something else!)

With language, one of the first things you learn – apart from ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ –  is ‘to be’: I am a nun; we are from Finland; are you hungry? and so on. In Spanish there are two verbs for to be: ser and estar.

The text books say that, loosely, Ser is about a more permanent state: ‘I am Irish’ (always will be) whereas estar is used mainly for temporary conditions.

To complicate things a little, ‘Are you hungry?’ is actually ‘Do you have hunger?’ – S says it’s the same in French and, speaking it pretty well, ‘gets’ this more than M who struggles even with the basics.

Soy irlandesa – I’m Irish’ (if you’re female)

Está enfermo – He’s ill

¿Tienes hambre? – Are you hungry? (if it’s someone you know, otherwise ¿Tiene hambre?) From the verb tener, to have.

Ser is used, for example, for: nationality (Are you Spanish? / ¿Eres espanola?); identification (That isn’t a cat, it’s a dog / Eso no es un gato, es un perro); profession (I’m a doctor / Soy medico, not Soy un medico); physical characteristics (They’re very tall / Son muy altos); Stuff that you own (This house is ours / Esta casa es nuestra).

Estar is used, for example, for: how you feel/state (I’m tired / Estoy cansado); location (Where’s the restaurant? / ¿Dónde está el restaurante?); temporary conditions (That nun is very happy / Esa monja está muy feliz); where something is/position (It’s on the table / Está sobre la mesa or Está en la mesa).

How to remember when to use which? That is the question.

© con jamón 2013 


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