Using ser (not estar) to express an essential or permanent characteristic

When we want to describe a permanent/essential characteristic of something or someone we use the verb ser (not estar). 

For example:

España es un país europeo.
Spain is a European country.

Read and listen to other examples with the verb ser:

Yo soy bajo.
I am short.

¿Tú eres alta?
Are you tall?

In the examples above, we use ser to talk about physical descriptions.

Antonio es un chico muy trabajador.
Antonio is a very hard-working guy.

Nosotras somos estudiosas.
We are studious.

Vosotros dos no sois sensatos.
You two are not sensible.

¡Mis hermanos son fantásticos!
My brothers are fantastic!

In the examples above, we use ser to talk about the character/personality.

See also Conjugate ser in El Presente (present tense) 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

España es un país europeo.
Spain is a European country.


¿Tú eres alta?
Are you tall?


¡Mis hermanos son fantásticos!
My brothers are fantastic!


Vosotros dos no sois sensatos.
You two are not sensible.


Antonio es un chico muy trabajador.
Antonio is a very hard-working guy.


Nosotras somos estudiosas.
We are studious.


Yo soy bajo.
I am short.


Q&A

Garry

Kwiziq community member

12 April 2019

3 replies

estar/soy

slimness and weight are NOT permanent things. Sus padres estan bastante delgado ya, pero en seis meses tal vez estaran gordos. No?

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

13 April 2019

13/04/19

Hola Garry

You can talk about physical condition in a permanent way or non-permanent way. For example, if you say someone is slim, as in he/she has always been a slim person you would use "ser":

María es muy delgada. (this characteristic is seen as a permanent one)

But you can also use "estar" if you are talking about a sudden change or non-permanent characteristic, as if it was a result of something. For example:

María está muy delgada. (this implies she has probably gone on a diet and she is now slimmer)

Another typical example is with ser/estar guapo/-a.

Antonio, eres un chico muy guapo. ( permanent)

Antonio, estás muy guapo hoy. Ese peinado te sienta bien. (non-permanent/result)

Here is a lesson about this use of estar:

Using estar (not ser) when talking about physical condition of something, someone or a place

Hope it helps

Inma

Erika

Kwiziq community member

20 April 2019

20/04/19

I had a similar question to Garry. slimness and weight are NOT permanent things, how come for the question , 

Sus padres son bastante delgado, están cannot replace son??

Garry

Kwiziq community member

21 April 2019

21/04/19

Erika, exactly! There's no indication that the slimness was arrived at over a period of time or whether the comment was on the genetic slimness that exists in the family. Nevertheless, the instructor's point is taken even though the question was poorly posed.

Mitchell

Kwiziq community member

9 February 2019

1 reply

Is perezoso a more common use for the meaning of lazy?

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

10 February 2019

10/02/19

Hola Mitchell

Perezoso/-a, vago/-a, and flojo/-a are three words for "lazy". I would say the three of them are used equally. Maybe it depends on the region in Spain one is more used than the other. I am from the south and I tend to use flojo/-a more than the others.

Un saludo

Inma

Clever stuff underway!