Estar vs Ser with Adjectives

Adjetivos que cambian de significado

Ser vs estar with adjectives
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You probably know that Spanish has two verbs that mean "to be": estar and ser. What you might not know is that dozens of Spanish adjectives have different meanings depending on which of these verbs they’re used with.

 Generally speaking, the contrasting meanings are in keeping with the fundamental difference between the two verbs:

  • The estar meanings usually describe temporary characteristics, and tend to be subjective or figurative.
  • The ser meanings are permanent attributes, with objective or literal meanings.
 Estar Ser
abierto open (object) open-minded
aburrido bored boring
atento attentive, focused considerate, courteous
bueno tasty
attractive, sexy
 good, moral
cachondo aroused sexy
cansado tired tiresome, stressful
católico in good health* Catholic
cerrado closed (object) close-minded
considerado respected considerate, thoughtful
decidido decided resolute
despierto awake alert, smart
divertido in a good mood funny
enfermo sick invalid (noun)
fatal (feel) awful (be) fatal
fresco unrealistic
 sassy, cheeky
interesado interested self-serving
limpio clean (sober)
broke, penniless
 clean (not dirty)
listo ready smart, clever
loco crazy scatter-brained
malo sick
rotten, stale (food)
 bad, immoral
molesto embarrassed annoying
negro tan
 black (skin)
parado unemployed shy
perezoso feeling lazy lazy (personality)
rico delicious rich
rojo reddened (skin) red (color)
seguro sure, certain safe
sobrio sober moderate, frugal
verde unripe (fruit)
immature (person)
 green (color)
dirty (obscene)
violento embarrased violent, embarrassing
vivo alive lively, dynamic, alert

 * This is usually used in the negative: No está católico – He’s not well.

Spanish quiz Estar vs ser Quiz

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the different meanings of adjectives with estar vs ser in this quiz:

Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless Spanish account to take this test. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!

 Related lessons

Learn French En français

French does not have two words for "to be" but it does have a similar set of adjectives with different meanings. In French, the question of subjective/figurative vs objective/literal meaning depends on whether the adjective precedes or follows the noun:

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Estar vs ser with adjectives

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