The Verb Ser – When To Use It?

When To Use The Spanish Verb Ser

The verb ser is one of the most commonly used irregular verbs in the Spanish language and at the same time one of the most confusing verbs for Spanish students to learn. Much of the confusion is due to the fact that the verb ser, along with the Spanish verb estar, both literally translate to the English phrase “to be.” However, these are two very distinct verbs each with their own meaning and they are seldom (if ever) used synonymously. To help you establish the differences between these two verbs, let’s go over when to use the verb and some sample Spanish phrases.

verb ser Use the verb ser to indicate existence.

When using the verb ser to indicate existence, you have to pay particular attention not to confuse the usage with the Spanish verb “hay” which translates to “there is” as in the phrase “hay algien aqui” which means “there is someone here.” With said here are some sample phrases that use the verb ser to indicate existence:

a. La casa es blanca (the house is white)

b. Soy un adulto (I am an adult)

c. Los árboles son altos (the trees are tall)

d. El invierno es muy frío en Alaska (the winter is very cold in Alaska)

verb ser Use the verb ser to indicate origin, nature or identity.

The best way to think about using ser in this mode is to think about the fact that origin, nature, and even identity (unless a person changes name) seldom change. So, in general you would use ser here to indicate a person’s occupation, what something is made from, where someone comes from, the place where someone lives, a person’s religious belief, and a person’s ethnic identity. For example:

a. Soy de Mexico (I am from Mexico)

b. Es Alejandro (He is Alejandro)

c. Los muebles son de madera (The furniture is made out of wood)

d. El papa es Católico (The Pope is Catholic).

e. Su padre es mi professor de Ingles (His father is my English teacher).

f. Mi novia es muy bella (My girlfriend is very beautiful).

verb ser Use of the verb ser to indicate possession or ownership.

Interestingly enough, you can use it to indicate possession and ownership both literally and figuratively. For example:

a. El perro is mío (the dog is mine)

b. Es mi sentimiento (it is my feeling)

c. El renacimento es de Italia (the renaissance belongs to Italy)

verb ser Use of the verb ser in Impersonal statements.

When using impersonal statements in English, we usually begin the statement with the word “it” as the subject and almost always refer to a conceptual thing rather than something that is concrete. However, in Spanish, the phrase can begin with a form of ser because the subject does not need to be explicitly
stated.   Here are some samples:

a. Es muy importante (it is very important)

b. Es mi derecho (It’s my right)

c. Fue fácil y terminamos rápido (It was easy and we finished quickly)

d. Es sorprendente que no puedas harcerlo (It is surprising that you can’t do it).

As you may have noticed, the verb ser is a highly irregular Spanish verb. Look for more information regarding verb ser, including conjugations for the tenses throughout this site.

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