Adjetivos que cambian de significado
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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.
|atento||attentive, focused||considerate, courteous|
|católico||in good health*||Catholic|
|divertido||in a good mood||funny|
|fatal||(feel) awful||(be) fatal|
|clean (not dirty)|
rotten, stale (food)
|perezoso||feeling lazy||lazy (personality)|
|rojo||reddened (skin)||red (color)|
|vivo||alive||lively, dynamic, alert|
* This is usually used in the negative: No está católico – He’s not well.
Estar vs ser Quiz
Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the different meanings of adjectives with estar vs ser in this quiz:
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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