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TIP #68 - This tip was sent on the week: 4th - 10th Dec, 2005

This tip applies to the following programs:

  • ESI Professional
  • ESI Standard

Ser versus Estar


There are certain adjectives in Spanish which are usually associated with the verb “estar“, while others are associated with “ser”. Both “ser” and “estar” are direct translation of the verb ”to be”; however, the adjectives associated with “ser” have more of a permanent character imbued in them, while those associated with “estar” have a transitory nature.


You can be tired at one moment and then not be tired the next. In Spanish, this is expressed with the verb “estar”.

Usted está cansado en este momento.

However, if you want to describe the color of a stone, you use the verb “ser” with the adjective, because the color is taken to be permanent.

Esta piedra es azul

In English, though, you use the same verb “be” in both instances.


This is why Word Magic has thought it convenient to supply this information within the TDT Dictionary, since it might not be an obvious fact to an English-speaking User.


Take a look at the adjective “listo”, for instance, in our TDT Dictionary.



You will see that “listo” is displayed as listo (somebody), and then (Adjective) underneath.


If it does not say anything else -like in this case-, this means that by default the adjective is used with the verb “ser”:


El niño es listo The boy is clever.


However, if you display the second meaning of “listo” (click on the second tag), you will see that it is displayed with the following note” (“with Estar”).


Therefore, if you want to say, for instance, the System is ready, you have to use “estar” → El sistema está listo



ESI will automatically do this selection during translation. Sometimes it can make a mistake, especially if other words are inserted between the verb and the adjective. In those cases, you can correct the problem clicking on the appropriate tag using the Interactive Mode (available in ESI PRO).


Take note that the meanings of the two adjectives are completely different in the case of “listo”. The “estar” adjective is translated as “ready”, whereas the “ser “adjective is translated as “clever”. Notice also that the word (Somebody) is shown by the side of the latter meaning. This means that “listo”, in this connotation, can be used only with animated entities.


Our future Version 5.0, TDT will also display a note on those adjectives which can be used indistinctively with “ser” or “estar,” without drastically changing their meanings.

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