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How Can I Teach My Child the Difference Between Ser and Estar?

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 29, 2016 12:54:00 PM / by Tyler Haire

Tyler Haire

how can i teach my child the difference between ser and estar



Ser and estar are the two most fundamental verbs to learning Spanish. They are also probably the trickiest. They both mean "To be", but they are used in different situations depending on a few factors. In order for any student to succeed in learning Spanish, they will need  a solid grasp on how to use these two verbs in the right context. Below, I've outlined some of the key points that you can use to teach your child the difference between Ser and Estar.

How Can I Teach My Child the Difference Between Ser and Estar?

The best place to start is understanding how the verbs are typically used:

How is Ser typically used?

The general rule is that Ser is used to describe permanent or long lasting characteristics and attributes: 

  1. Origin
    • Tyler es de New Hampshire./Tyler is from New Hampshire.
  2. Characteristic
    • Tyler es alto./ Tyler is tall.
  3. Description
    • Tyler es guapo./Tyler is handsome.
  4. Occupation
    • Tyler es un tutor./Tyler is a tutor.
  5. Time
    • Son las dos de la tarde./It is  two o'clock in the afternoon.
  6. Relationship
    • Tyler es mi nuevo tutor. / Tyler is my new tutor.

An easy way to remember the correct usage of Ser is with the acronym "DOCTOR."

How is Estar typically used?

In contrast to Ser, use Estar to describe temporary qualities like current states or locations:

  1. Position
    • Yo estoy sentado./ I am seated.
  2. Location
    • Estamos en Brookline ahora./ We are in Brookline now.
  3. Action
    • Estoy revistando mis notas./ I am reviewing my notes.
  4. Condition
    • Estoy enfermo. / I am sick.
  5. Emotion 
    • Estoy emocionado por aprender español./ I am excited to learn Spanish.

 The acronym to help remember this is "PLACE."  

The Tener Idom Exceptions

Parents, beware! Sometimes instead of using Ser or Estar, Tener (to have) is actually the correct verb. Here are some examples of idoms that use Tener instead:

  1. Tener (mucha) sed - To be thirsty
  2. Tener (mucha) hambre - To be hungry
  3. Tener catarro - To have the flu
  4. Tener un resfrío - To have a cold
  5. Tener (mucho) frío - To be cold
  6. Tener (mucho) calor - To be hot
  7. Tener (mucha) suerte - To be lucky
  8. Tener (mucha) prisa - To be in a hurry
  9. Tener (mucho) miedo - To be afraid
  10. Tener (mucho) sueño - To be tired 

Unfortunately, there aren't any acronyms to help learn these tener exceptions — only practice. But after a while of speaking and writing these forms, they will become more natural. If you'd like to find more resources on these verbs, take a look at these resources available in Brookline.


Do you need help teaching your kids Spanish? Maybe it's time to get a tutor! Check out some sample coursework to see if tutoring is right for them:


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Tyler Haire

Written by Tyler Haire

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