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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