Different meaning of some Spanish adjectives
Some Spanish adjectives have different meanings when they are used with ser or estar. Here are the most common ones:
Ser bueno vs Estar bueno
Ser bueno refers to being good as in a good person or behaving well while estar bueno refers to something tasting good.
There is also an idiomatic expression to say that "someone is hot" (attractive), and for this we use "estar bueno/-a".
Bear in mind this use is colloquial and generally used among young people.
Ser malo vs Estar malo
Ser malo refers to being a bad person or something being bad quality while estar malo refers to either being ill or to bad food, either that it is not tasty or it is off.
Ser abierto vs Estar abierto
Ser abierto refers to being an open-minded person or having an outgoing personality while estar abierto refers to something being physically open, like a window, a door, a place, or an exhibition, as well as being open to something (being receptive) like an oportunity or an idea (in this very last context, you need to use the preposition "a"):
Ser cerrado vs Estar cerrado
Ser cerrado refers to being a close-minded person or a bit stubborn while estar cerrado refers to something being physically closed, like a window, etc.
Ser listo vs Estar listo
Ser listo refers to a person being clever/intelligent while estar listo means to be ready.
Ser atento vs Estar atento
Ser atento refers to the quality of being thoughtful and courteous with other people while estar atento refers to being alert/vigilant/paying attention.
Ser verde vs Estar verde
Ser verde simply refers to being green as in the colour green while estar verde refers to unripe food, or in reference to people, to being a bit immature or unskilled.
Ser católico vs Estar católico
Ser católico refers to being of Catholic faith while estar católico refers to feeling well either physically or mentally. It is generally used in the negative.
Generally, when we use these adjectives with ser they keep the more literal meaning, expressing a permanent quality about someone or something, while estar gives a more figurative meaning.
Also remember that adjectives need to agree with the nouns they refer to.
Here is a list with adjectives that change meaning with ser and estar.
Want to make sure your Spanish sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »