To Be or not To Be

“Ser” and “Estar”: Two verbs for “To Be”


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Today we will learn about….

“Ser” and “Estar”: Two verbs for “To Be”

A lot of people can get confused with the verbs Ser and Estar, as these mean exactly the same - To Be.

So, how do you know when to use either?

1. The use of “Ser”

“Ser” denotes an inherent or permanent quality of ‘being’, for example: Sou um aluno ‘ I am a student’; Sou uma turista ‘I am a tourist’; Sou solteiro ‘I am single’.

In short, ser is what you are, or who you are. Here are some examples:

  • Sou Portuguesa. (f) I am Portuguese

  • Lisboa é linda. Lisbon is beautiful.

  • Ela é casada. She is married.

  • Nós somos amigos. We are friends.

N.B. ‘Ser’ plus the preposition ‘De’

Ser plus the preposition de denotes possession, origin. Although, to note that where there is a possessive adjective or pronoun, de is omitted:

  • Eles são de Londres. (They are from London)

  • Esta chave é do senhor Fernando. (This key belongs to Mr Fernando)

  • Esta cadeira é minha. (This chair is mine - possessive, therefore “de” is omitted).

2. The use of “Estar”

“Estar” is used when speaking of a temporary state or condition, action and place.

  • Nós estamos cansados. (We are tired)

  • Eu estou a trabalhar. (I am working)

  • Estou com fome. (I am hungry)

  • Eles estão em Londres. (They are in London)

Useful tip - if you are using the preposition “em”, you know that ‘estar’ must be used.

Other examples (Estar vs. Ser):

Ele está feio. (He is looking ugly - temporarily - “Estar”)

Ele é feio. (He is ugly - always - “Ser”)

3. Present Tenses of “Ser” and “Estar”

Ser (To Be) Estar

Eu sou ——— ( I am) ———— Eu estou 

Tu  és ——— (You are)——— Tu estás

Ele/ Ela é ——— (He / She is)—— Ele / Ela está

Nós somos (We are)—— Nós estamos

Eles/ Elas são (they are) Eles / Elas estão

Examples with Ser and Estar:

  • Ela é linda. (She is beautiful)

  • Ela está linda. (She is looking beautiful)

  • O homem é velho. (The man is old)

  • O homem está velho. (The man is looking old)

  • Elas são aborrecidas. (They are boring)

  • Elas estão aborrecidas. (They are bored)

N.B. The word “Tu” can be omitted completely, once the form of address has been established. E.g.: 

  • (Tu - informal) Falas Português?

  • (Você - formal) Fala Português?

Here are some simple exercises you can do at home, to practise what you have just learnt:

EXERCISE 1 - Verb “Ser”

Study the list of words that follows this exercise and then try to translate the sentences.

  1. I (f.) am English.

  2. He is boring.

  3. She is a secretary.

  4. This is very important.

  5. We (f.) are cousins.

  6. They (m.) are young.

  7. As malas não são minhas.

  8. Nós somos amigos.

  9. Eles são turistas?

  10. Eu sou Maltesa.

EXERCISE 2 - Verb “Estar”

Study the list of words that follows this exercise and then try to translate the sentences.

  1. I am in London.

  2. Are you tired?

  3. I am bored.

  4. The bus is late.

  5. The dogs are playing.

  6. She is hungry.

  7. Eu estou a comer.

  8. Elas estão lindas.

  9. O gato está em casa.

  10. Os cães estão no jardim.

I hope this lesson was useful!

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Obrigada e até à próxima!