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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Rosa here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer some of your most common Spanish questions.
The question for this lesson is, How do you know when to use ser or estar?
This can be confusing for Spanish learners, especially native English speakers, because both ser and estar mean "to be."
First, let's go over the forms of ser.
"I am" is yo soy. "You are" singular, tú eres. "He/she is," él/ella/usted es. "We are" is nosotros somos, "you are" polite and plural is vosotros sois and "they are" is ellos/ellas/ustedes son.
The different forms of estar are, yo estoy for "I am," tú estás for singular "you are," él/ella/usted está for "he/she is," nosotros estamos for "we are," vosotros estáis for plural and polite "you are," and ellos/ellas/ustedes están for "they are."
There is a subtle, but simple, difference between the two words for "to be."
Estar is for temporary conditions such as feelings and emotions. That's why "How are you?" is ¿Cómo estás?
Ser is for characteristics or permanent states of being. For example, if I said “I am American,” I'd say Yo soy Americana.
Here's a good rule of thumb: Turn the sentence into a question. If the question uses "how," then use estar. If it uses "what," then use ser.
Take the word callado for example, which means "quiet." Depending on which verb you use, the nuance will be different.
If you say, Ella es callada, which uses ser, that means "She is quiet," as in, "She is a quiet person."
On the other hand, if you say, Ella está callada, using estar, that means, "She's being quiet." The nuance is that this situation is temporary and that she is just being quiet at this moment in time.
Pretty cool, right?
If you have any other questions, please comment below and I'll try to answer them!
¡Hasta pronto!