In the previous lesson, we learned that the verb “ser” is used to describe the inherent or unchangeable characteristics of people, animals, things, places, and so on. However, as I said before, there are many exceptions that fortunately you will understand if you learn a little about our culture, religion, and history. Please, do not worry too much about those exceptions because in the next lesson you will find good explanations that will allow you to understand why those exceptions are in our language, and moreover, some important differences between using “ser” instead of “estar” and vice versa.
The verb “estar”
First of all, you must get familiar with the verb “estar”. Please, make sure you memorize the following table very well.
As you see, “yo soy” and “yo estoy” both mean “I am”. However, we cannot use them indifferently. We must use them in the right context, otherwise, we can send the wrong message and be misunderstood by the listeners or in the worst case you can be seen as a rude person. This may look a bit tricky for beginners. However, choosing the right verb in most cases is a matter of common sense.
Let’s start looking at some cases where you can use the verb “estar”.
1. Sentimientos, emociones y condición
Feelings, emotions, and conditions are changeable, that is why we use the verb “estar” to talk about them.
a. Sentimientos y emociones
Important: in Spanish, when someone asks us, how are you? We answer, “I’m well” and not “I’m good”, why? It is because we use adverbs instead of adjectives to answer. “Bueno” is an adjective and “bien” is an adverb. The difference between using an adjective instead of an adverb is in the table below.
Answering with “bien” -> “well”.
Answering with “bueno” -> “good”.
Although there are some other differences, for this level and this course, keeping in mind the following table would be enough.
Note: We learned in the previous lesson that “bueno” means “good” and “malo” means “bad”. Also, we learned that adjectives have a gender and number (singular and plural). However, adverbs do not have gender and number as you will see in the following table below.
Important: the verb “estar” allows to use adjectives and adverbs as well. However, the verb “ser” only admits the use of adjectives.
2. La temperatura
It is well known that temperature is changeable. That is why it does not require an explanation.
3. El tiempo
There are two grammar structures to talk about the weather. At this level, we will learn the most simple one.
Note: when we describe or talk about the weather, we use “caluroso” instead of “caliente”. “Caliente” is only used to describe beverage, food, or objects.
The location is changeable or unchangeable depending on the context. It is obvious that the location of a mountain is unchangeable while the location of a person is constantly changing. Therefore, it would be logical to say,
“El Everest es en el Himalaya” or “Mi mama está en la oficina”.
However, in Spanish, we use the verb “estar” no matter if the subject’s location is changeable or unchangeable. It does not mean that <<El Everest es en el Himalaya>> is wrong. Actually, <<El Everest es en el Himalaya>> is fine but using the verb “estar” instead “ser” would better and the most natural way to talk about location.
So, it would be better if you say,
“El Everest está en el Himalaya”.
Conclusion: always use the “estar” verb no matter if the location is changeable or unchangeable.
Here is the grammar structure and some examples:
The subject + estar + en (preposition) + article + place.
There is only one exception when we talk about location. We most use the verb “ser” when we refer to an event (meeting, congress, party, concert).
5. Preposiciones de lugar
The preposition of place gives us information about the location of the subject.
Here are some examples,
6. Presente Progresivo
In Spanish, the present progressive is used to describe an action that is taking place.
The grammar structure is very simple,
The subject + estar + present participle.
The question at this point is, how is the present participle formed in Spanish?
For answering the question above, you need to know some important grammar rules.
1. Spanish infinitive verbs always end in “-ar, - er & -ir”.
2. The present participle is formed by adding “-ando” to those infinitive verbs that end in “-ar” and “-iendo” those infinitive verbs that end in “-er & -ir”.
Here are some examples,
Let’s focus on the last two examples,
Roberto está leyendo noticias en el/un parque.
Teresa está bebiendo el/un café.
Probably, you are wondering, what is the difference between definite and indefinite articles? In other words, what is the difference between 1. “el parque” and “un parque” and 2. “el café” and “un café”.
1. When the speaker refers to “el parque”, the speaker refers to a park that both, speaker and listener know, or a park that was mentioned previously in the conversation.
In the opposite case, when the speaker refers to “un parque”, the speaker refers to any park. Therefore, the speaker could consider that location is irrelevant to the listener.
2. A. When the speaker says, “Teresa está bebiendo café” (without the article). The speaker is talking in a very general way. In his/her statement the only important is the fact that “Teresa is drinking coffee”, regardless of the quantity or origin of the coffee.
B. When the speaker refers to “el café”, the speaker could refer to a specific kind of coffee or a coffee that was mentioned before in the conversation. For example, the speaker could refer to a coffee that he/she bought or prepared for Teresa earlier.
C. In the opposite case, when the speaker refers to “un café”, the speaker refers to a quantity.
In Spanish, “one coffee” -> “uno café” is grammatically wrong, instead, we say, “a coffee” -> “un café”, or “dos cafés”, “tres cafés”, and so on. In other words, we use indefinite articles instead of number one.
Therefore, when the speaker refers to “un café” he/she emphasizes the number of cups of coffee he/she is drinking.
One more example,
Yo estoy viendo la película. (Know information by speaker and listener)
Yo estoy viendo una película. (Unknown information by the listener. The speaker may consider that the name of the movie is not important for the listener or in the conversation)
More information about the use of articles, here.