The different “to be’s”

The rule of thumb taught in Spanish class is: ser is for a permanent state; estar for temporary. And its true, to a degree. Just like, most key verbs, you need to master, are: irregular.

Haz click aquí para ver 'ser' y 'estar'

ser & estar present

ser & estar present tense conjugations




In the context of a restaurant and food…

Ser describes dishes in general.

Ejemplos de ser

  • El gazpacho es una sopa fría. (Gazpacho is a cold soup)
  • El café en españa es muy fuerte (The coffee in Spain is very strong)
  • Los platos no son tan grande como en EEUU (The dishes aren’t as big as in the US)

Estar describes the food after it arrives at your table.

Ejemplos de estar

  • Mi sopa está demasiado caliente. (My soup is too hot)
  • Mi café está muy fría. (My coffee is very cold)
  • Estos platos están sucios. (Those plates are very dirty)

Ser is when, in English, we add like after “to be.”


  • ¿Cómo es la comida española? (What’s Spanish food like? [Note: “how” is used in Spanish])
  • Es muy rica y sana, con mucho pescado y marisco. (It’s rich and healthy, with a lot of seafood and fish)
  • ¿Cómo son las naranjas en Sevilla? (What are the oranges like in Sevilla?)
  • Son muy amargas. (They are very bitter)

Estar is asking about the food when you taste it


  • ¿Cómo está la comida? (How is the food?)
  • Está bastante soso. (It’s quite bland.)
  • Las naranjas están muy ácidas hoy (The oranges are very acidic today)



The question, “¿Qué tal…?” is actually more common in both cases and can be used for almost any topic, in both the present & past tense. But you have to use ser or estar correctly in the answer…

Click para ver ejemplos en español

  • ¿Qué tal el pescado aquí?
  • Es muy fresco.
  • ¿Qué tal tu arroz ayer?
  • Estaba bastante duro.
  • ¿Qué tal tus padres?
  • Están muy bien.
  • ¿Qué tal tus vacaciones de verano
  • Estuvieron genial.


  • How’s the fish here?
  • It’s very fresh
  • How was your rice yesterday
  • It was quite hard
  • How are your parents?
  • They’re very well.
  • How were your summer holidays?
  • They were great



… is the final form of “to be” and in the present tense, the basis of another useful phrase that you’ll need to grasp…


Hay que… + the infinitive of the verb.


The literal [read: incorrect] translation would be: “There is that to do something.” The correct translation?  The closest thing in English is, “One has/must do something”.


Scratching your head in confusion?

It’s Spanish going impersonal again, with the form of the passive voice. We have this in English, although it’s not usually applied so broadly. Keep following the lessons and grammar points to see what we mean. If you find yourself struggling with the concept, tell yourself, Es lo que hay“.

Hay que...

  • Hay que hacerlo
  • Hay que cocinarlo.
  • Hay que comprarlo


  • One has to do it
  • One has to cook it
  • One has to buy it

Another unsolved linguistic mystery

Léelo si quieres

detective 2

Who is “the one” that must do these things in Spain? Is it me? You? The neighbor? One of the country’s venerated virgins with their own holiday? That, my friends, is an open case which has been haunting our linguistic gumshoe, like “the one” who got away.

[WpProQuiz 15]

Back to grammar points

Back to grammar points

back to the language center

Back to the language center