Use of the adjective with the verbs Ser and Estar

We’ll dedicate this section to look at some adjectives with the verbs ser and estar (to be), which often cause confusion in Spanish.

Take a look at the examples and you’ll see that the verb ser doesn’t work with the same adjectives as the verb estar. Switching these verbs can sometimes alter the meaning.

In Spanish there are some adjectives tha fit with the verb SER but other that can't go with the verb Estar. For example:

  • Es necesario = is necesary
  • Es probable = Probably
  • Es importante =is important
  • Es distinto =is different
  • Es posible = possibly
  • Es normal = is normal
  • Es obligado =is obliged/ forced
  • Es común = is common
  • Es absurdo = is ridiculous
  • Es seguro = Is sure
  • Es evidente = is obvious
  • Es propio = is own

Adjectives that can combine with the verb ESTAR usually show a result:

  • Estar contento = to be happy
  • Estar cansado = to be tired
  • Estar triste = to be sad
  • Estar satisfecho = to be proud
  • Estar atento = to take care
  • Estar sentado = to be seated

Adjectives that can be combined with the verbs SER and ESTAR can change their meaning:

1.The verb ser: indicate a quality or a feature that is permanent:

  • Juan es alto, = is tall
  • Juan es alegre, = is happy
  • Juan es calvo = is bald

2.While the verb estar: indicate an acquired quality

  • Juan está soltero, = is single
  • Juan está alegre (ahora en el momento en el que se habla) =is happy now


The same adjective used with the verb ser or estar can change the meaning of a phrase:

  • Ser manco /cojo: To be permanently disabled in an extremity.
  • Estar manco/ cojo:To limp temporarily
  • Ser pobre: A more permanent condition of being poor.
  • Estar pobre: To be temporarily without money.
  • Ser un loco: To have lost one’s mental faculties.
  • Estar loco: To behave in a crazy way.
  • Ser listo: To be intelligent.
  • Estar listo: To be ready.
  • Ser despierto: tricky, clever
  • Estar despierto: not sleep
  • Ser delicado: sensitive.
  • Estar delicado: sick.
  • Ser listo: clever , bright.
  • Estar listo: ready.
  • Ser orgulloso: arrogant.
  • Estar orgulloso: satisfied.
  • Ser negro: black of skin.
  • Estar negro: get annoyed.
  • Ser nuevo: brand-new, not used.
  • Estar nuevo: used but seems new.
  • Ser vivo: lbright, lively.
  • Estar vivo: to be live.
  • Ser interesado: selfish.
  • Estar interesado: to be interested.