Ser versus Estar

This is an area where many native English speakers have trouble.  So, don't feel bad if you are confused.  Both ser and estar mean "to be."  However, determining which one to use is the difficulty.  Fear not!  There is a list of circumstances.  All you have to do is memorize it.

When to use Ser

When to use Estar

  1. "permanent" situations*
  2. Origin
  3. Nationality
  4. Physical characteristics
  5. Personality traits
  6. Time
  7. Occupation
  1. "temporary" situations*
  2. Location
  3. Feelings, emotions, moods
  4. Health
  5. Weather
  6. To speak in the Present Progressive tense

*Permanent/temporary is a GUIDELINE.  It is not a rule.  Look at location.  You are at the computer (a temporary situation).  Boise is in Idaho (a permanent situation).  Both would use estar because of location.  Location is a rule.  temporary is not a good rule.  But it might help you remember the "rules."

Examples of Ser:

Origin I am from Mississippi.
Nationality She is an American.
Physical characteristics They are tall.
Personality traits. Mary Poppins is nice.
Time. It is Tuesday.  It is March.  It is winter.  It is 3:47 pm.

Examples of Estar:

Location You are here.
Feelings, emotions, mood. Mary Poppins is sad.
Health Bob is sick.
Weather It is cloudy.
Present Progressive I am talking

There are other rules for usage as well.  I apologize for not providing a more complete list.  Such is life.