How to Say “Are” in Spanish - with Tips to Understand Ser vs. Estar

How to Say “Are” in Spanish - with Tips to Understand Ser vs. Estar

Things are not always as they seem. It can take a bit more clarity to get a message across. Sometimes, we need words like “are” to express locations, feelings, and more.

In English, the word “are” is a form of the verb "to be." It typically expresses a state of being or doing. Sometimes, we are tired. We have friends that are dating. We are siblings.

Explaining relations between people is a very common occurrence in everyday communication. It is what establishes the human connection. However, unlike many other verbs, “are” is used as glue in a sentence.

Transitional elements allow for fluidity in speech. Without them, the meat of what is being expressed is lost. Just like in English, Spanish has transitional verbs that aid in effective everyday communication.


Spanish Frequency Dictionaries


The verb “to be” is probably in the top ten most common words in any language. In our Spanish Frequency Dictionaries, you’ll learn 10,000 most common words in Spanish. You’ll get their translation and phonetic transcription. More importantly, each entry has an example sentence translated into English to show you its usage in context. 


How to Say “Are” in Spanish


The Spanish equivalent of the word “to be” is ser (pronounced: [ˈsɛɾ] in the IPA transcription). There is also the verb estar (pronounced: [ɛs.ˈtaɾ]), which means the same thing but is used in different situations.

Ser translates directly as “to be,” and since it is a verb, it can be conjugated. Conjugation is the method of changing a verb’s form to fit with a statement. When conjugating a verb, a general rule of thumb to follow is based on the following chart:




You (informal)


He/She/You (formal)


They (masculine)/They (feminine)/You (formal or informal-plural)


We (masculine)/We (feminine)


You (masculine)/You (feminine) – informal, in Spain



Conjugating “Ser” in Spanish


Ser can be conjugated in the present tense as follows:















“Are” is one of the most frequently used words in the English language. Spanish is no exception to that. Think about the number of times you say the word “are” on any given day.

We do it without even thinking because transitional phrases and verbs tend to slip past us. They become almost second nature, even with cases like ser and estar that seem to mirror each other. As with any language, there are tricks to make mastering these concepts simple. Looking at examples is a fantastic place to start.


Examples with Ser


  • Es mi mochila. – It is my backpack.


When referring to objects in the singular, es is the correct form of ser to use. Since it is categorized under both the feminine and masculine forms, it can work for any item.

If you were talking about a generalized item, it’d be extra important to remember to use el or la. In this example, we do not need to use the article la in front of mochila because it is implied that it is your backpack and not just a backpack.


  • Ella es mi hermana. – She is my sister.


On a similar note, the same conjugation rules apply here as you discuss a person. The difference here is that since you are not referring to her by name, the word ella goes before our verb, es. If you did have her name, that would replace ella in this context. “Natalia es mi hermana” would still match up grammatically.


  • Ellos son mis amigos. – They are my friends.


Here, we are talking about an informal group of men, or men and women. When a group is composed of different genders, you revert to the ellos form. They are your friends, so, therefore, the appropriate form of ser, in this case, is son. If only one friend was the subject, es would be our choice.


  • Tú eres de México. – You are from Mexico.


In this example, we examine the informal “you,” which is . This statement can also be translated to a question, which would become “¿Eres de México?”.

It is typically more common to ask someone where they are from than to state it, but in some scenarios, it does occur either way. For instance, if a friend asks where your new significant other is from, “él/ella es de México” would be sufficient.


  • Somos primos. – We are cousins.


Referring to a group of people that you are a part of is important when explaining relations. This example uses cousins as the blank space, but it can work for any other kind of relation such as siblings or friends. 


Nosotros vs. Vosotros


While these two words look similar, they mean different things. Nosotros is translated as “we.” Vosotros is an informal plural version of “/you” used mainly in European Spanish. In Latin American Spanish, you’d use ustedes in both formal and informal plural forms of “you.”


Ser vs. Estar


The easiest rule of thumb to use when remembering the difference between ser and estar is the state of permanence regarding your subject matter. Characteristics such as relations would fall under the ser category, while conditions and actions would fall under the estar category.

This can get a bit tricky for new Spanish speakers as they navigate through the language. However, if you remember contextually what you’re referring to, it becomes easier to remember.


Conjugation of “Estar”















Examples Using Estar in Spanish


  • Yo estoy feliz. I am/feel happy.


This indicates a state that lacks permanence. Feelings fluctuate, and therefore the speaker in this scenario can experience a different feeling later on. Hopefully, the feeling of happiness persists, but since feelings often change, estar is the correct verb. Yo soy feliz would mean that I’m generally a happy person.


  • Él está triste. – He is sad.


On a less positive note, negative expressions can use estar as well. Perhaps you are being asked how a friend is doing, and you are honest in your response. Again, you are expressing that something is not permanent.


  • Estás saliendo. – You are dating.


Estar is also used as an auxiliary verb in the Spanish present progressive tense. Like in English, it is also used to talk about something that is happening now.


  • El baño está por ahí. – The toilet is over there.


Estar is used when talking about location or position. You can say Estamos en el café. – We are at the café. When pointing out a location or position of something, it doesn’t matter if you mean something permanent (a toilet) or temporary (a group of people).



More Examples with Ser or Estar


  1. Ella es alta. – She is tall.


Ser is used here to explain someone’s height, which is permanent.


  1. Ellos son hermanos. – They are brothers.


The state of being brothers is something that cannot be changed. 


  1. Estamos llegando tarde. – We are running late.


Estamos llegando is the first-person plural of the present progressive tense which consists of the respective form of estar and the present participle of the main verb.


  1. Ellos están cansados. – They are tired.


They won’t always be tired! With any hope, this group will take a well-deserved nap. Regardless, estar is the correct verb for this scenario.


  1. Yo soy de Argentina. I am from Argentina.


Knowing where a person is from can give you a lot of insight into their life. When you meet new people in your travels, this is often the first topic of discussion. No matter where you are, you can never change where you come from!


Spanish Dictionaries with Most Common Words

Don’t forget to take a look at our Spanish Frequency Dictionaries. In four books, you’ll get 10,000 most common words in Spanish listed by frequency and alphabet, which makes learning new vocabulary effective and fun at the same time. Example sentences translated into English are a fantastic reading practice, too!


To Summarize


  • Ser refers to permanent states of being such as characteristics or family relations.
  • Estar describes less permanent things, including feelings.
  • When describing where you’re from ser is the correct verb because while this explains a location, it is one that cannot be changed.
  • You can conjugate these verbs by matching the verb’s form to the subject.
  • Very few Spanish-speaking countries use the vosotros form.


Learning a new language can seem intimidating at first. This is especially true when you’re presented with instances such as ser vs. estar. They may seem very similar at first, but with a closer look, the differences are quite apparent!

When planning your travels to Spanish-speaking countries, it is important to learn these basics. Knowing how to properly convey a message can save you a lot of time and hassle and promote safety.

Around 5.6% of the Earth’s population speaks Spanish! That’s a whole lot when put in perspective of the estimated 7 billion people across the globe. Being able to understand and communicate effectively in Spanish makes you a higher candidate for job opportunities and overall connections with others. Being familiarized with the basics such as ser and estar makes learning much easier as you navigate through the language. 

Very few things in life are set in stone, but when they are, use ser! If you’re happy one moment and sad the next, estar is your friend. Most importantly, remember to keep going on your journey to learn a new language and don’t give up!

1 comment

  • Eric

    Excellent content. Very useful.

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