ESTAR - the most important verb in Spanish.
Fully Conjugated in All Tenses here

ESTAR is a Spanish word for 'to be'.

It is the most important verb in the Spanish language, and is the most sought after for its conjugations in terms of number of searches on the internet.

Estar means 'to be' in the sense of HOW something is, and learners of Spanish need to learn the difference between it, and the other main word for 'to be' which is 'SER'. It is also very important because it is used to make verb phrases like 'I am running, I was playing, to be swimming.'

SER means 'to be' in the sense of WHAT something is. What are its inherent characteristics, its true being, its character.

If you can grab and understand these two differences early you will have much less trouble in understanding the differences. These two verbs confuse the living daylights out of many students of Spanish. Read the two sentences above again ten times, and write them down, because they explain the fundamental differences between the two verbs. Once you understand that we can go on to flesh out the details of what these concepts mean. But as you learn the details you can keep returning to the two above concepts which summarize the differences.

The Best Tools for learning the differences between SER and ESTAR!

I say again, understanding the differences between these two most important Spanish words can confuse the blazes out of many students of Spanish. One student who had a Bachelors degree in Spanish told me she had never really grasped the difference between the two. For people who really, really want to master this there are two suggested courses of action:
  1. The best option is for serious students of Spanish and involves buying the excellent and thorough 220 page book on the topic 'Spanish Verbs: Ser and Estar - Key to Mastering the Language' by Spanish teachers Juan and Susan Serrano. It is published by Hippocrene Books, New York.

  2. The second best option is the interactive computer course (...prepare for a shameless plug for one of our products ...) ... 'Understanding Ser and Estar'. This course uses cartoon characters to make it easier to understand and remember where and when to use which verb. Cartoons of a SER-pent will help you remember 'ser' useages, and cartoons of 'EaSTAR' bunnies will help you remember the useages of 'estar'.

We talk a little more about this below but first ... work your way through the verb table below. Do the verb drills aloud -

  • row by row, then ...
  • column by column.

Learn the Tenses of ESTAR with our Verb Table

Our 2 Tier Verb Tables are much more effective than most traditional verb tables because you can learn all the tenses both by

(1) tense and by
(2) pronoun

It takes about three minutes to practise your Spanish verb drills both by BOTH:
PRONOUN (vertically) - that is I, you, we, he, she, they etc, through the tenses, AND also by:
TENSE (horizontally) through the pronouns, which is the normal way that students learn verb tenses.

Learning the drills vertically (which is less commonly taught due to the tendency to teach tense by tense) will teach you the different endings for each pronoun, deepening the depth and breadth of your knowledge of the verb.
By learning the whole verb table you will be exposed to ALL the different words for the different tenses (called conjugations) very early.

Simple Tenses - estar

am, are, is
estoy estás está estamos estáis están
was, were
estuve estuviste estuvo estuvimos estuvisteis estuvieron

was, were
estaba estabas estaba estábamos estabais estaban

will be
estaré estarás estará estaremos estaréis estarán

would be
estaría estarías estaría estaríamos estaríais estarían

may be
esté estés esté estemos estéis estén
Imperfect Subjunctive
Imperfecto de Subjuntivo

may have been
estuviera estuvieras estuviera estuviériamos estuvierais estuvieran
Imperfect Subjunctive
Imperfecto de Subjuntivo

may have been
estuviese estuvieses estuviese estuviésemos estuvieseis estuviesen
Compound Tenses estar - Participio (past participle) = estado
Present Perfect
Perfecto de Indicativo

have been
he estado has estado ha estado hemos estado habéis estado han estado
Preterit Perfect
Pretérito Anterior

had been
hube estado hubiste estado hubo estado hubimos estado hubisteis estado hubieron estado
Past Perfect

had been
había estado habías estado había estado habíamos estado habíais estado habían estado
Future Perfect
Futuro Perfecto

will have
habré estado habrás estado habrá estado habremos estado habréis estado habrán estado
Conditional Perfect
Condicional Perfecto

would have been
habría estado habrías estado habría estado habríamos estado habríais estado habrían estado
Imperfect Subjunctive
Imperfecto de Subjuntivo

may have been
hubiera estado hubieras estado hubiera estado hubiéramos estado hubierais estado hubieran estado
Imperfect Subjunctive
Imperfecto de Subjuntivo

may have been
hubiese estado hubieses estado hubiese estado hubiésemos estado hubieseis estado hubiesen estado
Imperative - Affirmative
Imperativo - Afirmativo

- está! esté! estemos! estad! estén!
Negative Imperative
Imperativo - Negativo

don't be!
- no estés! no esté! no estemos! no estéis! no estén!
Gerundio (present participle/gerund) = estando

Don't worry if you are not too sure of the exact use of each tense. You can use these words anyway, and they will help you with consolidating any knowledge that you already have.
Start with the simple tenses, then the compounds.

Memorize them, and many teachers will be astounded that you can recite so called 'complex tenses' at an early stage of your learning.

BE careful of the 'Temporary and Permanent' explanations of the differences between SER and ESTAR!

There are of course many, many more uses of these two 'easily-confused' verbs, but understanding the core concepts of:
  • estar being 'HOW' something is, and
  • ser being WHAT something is ...
...will give you the core understanding of the differences. As you learn each detailed case you will see how it slots into the two categories.

One of the things that the Serranos explain in their book is that many students are taught the differences between these two verbs by stating that one is for 'temporary' things and one is for 'permanent' things. They argue (... and remember these guys have both taught Spanish for decades ...) that this explanation is part of the root cause of the biggest stumbling blocks to understanding these two 'troublesome' verbs, as they call them.

This is because such an explanation does not teach students the fundamentals of the two verbs. The 'whatness' and 'howness' explanations however cover these. If you have had trouble grasping the differences of these two important but tricky verbs, start putting your knowledge of the verbs into the two categories and you will start to see where each fits ...

This is a very big topic ... and more is covered elsewhere on this site ... but only some hours of comprehensive study will really allow you to cover all the bases.

Many Common Idiomatic Expressions use the verb Estar

¿Como estás?
- How are you?
Estoy contento.
- I am happy.
Estamos a regimen.
- We are on a diet.
No estoy para bromas!
- I am not in the mood for joking around.

Do the verb table every day for a week to consolidate your knowledge of it. There is a growing list of fully conjugated Spanish verbs like estar here.

Check out our DAILY SPANISH VERB lessons also where a new fully conjugated verb appears on the webpage - 365 days of the year. Doing these every day will really consolidate your knowledge of Spanish verbs.

You can learn the details of each tense in more depth as you progress.
The more often you do our Verb Tables for each family of verbs the more they reinforce each other.
Do a verb table in full each day. (More if you can ...) Each takes about 3 minutes.

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