Ser and estar both translate in English to the verb “to be” and because of this it can be really confusing deciding which of the two is more appropriate because their meanings differ in Spanish. Here are some guidelines to help:

SER is used:

1. to connect the subject in a sentence to a noun:

a. Yo soy caribeña. – I am Caribbean.

b. Habana es la capital de Cuba. – Havana is the capital of Cuba.

c. André y Norman son amigos leales. – Andre and Norman are loyal friends.

2. with ‘de’ to specify origin:

a. ¿De dónde es usted? – Where are you from?

b. Mi bisabuela era de Portugal. – My great-grandmother was from Portugal.

c. Este jarrón es de China.  – This vase is from China.

3. with ‘de’ to state what something is made of:

a. Estos adera son de oro. – These earings are of gold.

b. Arepas son de maíz. – Arepas are made from corn.

c. La silla es de adera. – The chair is made from wood.

4. with ‘de’ to indicate ownership/possession:

a. El reloj oro era de mi tío. – The silver watch belonged to my uncle.

b. Estas tarjetas de crédito son de mi papa. – These are my dad’s credit cards.

c. El vestido nuevo es de mi prima. – The new dress is my cousin’s.

5. to state time of day or date of the month:

a. Es la una y media. – It’s one thirty (1:30).

b. ¿Qué fecha es hoy? – What is today’s date?

c. ¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?

6. to indicate where an EVENT takes place (not to be mistaken for estar which is discussed below):

a. La boda fue en el Hilton Hotel. – The wedding was at the Hilton Hotel.

b. La fiesta será en la casa de Mario. – The party will be at Mario’s house.

c. La cena es en mi restaurante preferido.  – The dinner is at my favourite restaurant.

7. With adjectives to express a quality that is characteristic of the subject:

a. Julia es muy amable. – Julia is very kind.

b. Jordán es trabajador. – Jordan is hardworking.

c. Mi hermana es alta. –My sister is tall.

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