When saying “I am”, “you are”, “she is”, and so on in English, you are conjugating the verb “to be”, because saying “I to be” or “they to be” makes no sense. The exact same thing happens in Spanish.
So, in this article you will discover everything you need to know about the Spanish verb ser, which you shouldn’t confuse with estar, another equivalent of the English verb “to be”. Yes, the verb “to be” has two translations in Spanish, but for now, let’s focus on ser, shall we?
When to use the verb ser
This verb allows us to talk about permanent or lasting traits, such as:
The key here is that we’re talking about permanent or lasting traits, in other words, they will remain the same for a long period of time.
How to conjugate the verb ser
In Spanish, verbs in the infinitive or unconjugated form end in either -ar, -er, and -ir. If a verb is regular, you just need to take out either of those endings and follow a fixed pattern. If you want to learn more about that pattern, check out my video about verb conjugations!
Bad news, though: both ser and “to be” are irregular verbs, which means two things:
- that neither of them follows a pattern in terms of conjugation; and
- that you have to learn the conjugation by heart.
The good news, though, is that there aren’t that many irregular verbs in Spanish.
Now, there’s really no point in memorizing the conjugation of this or other verbs in isolation. I suggest you learn them as chunks within a sentence. Chunks are word combinations in Spanish that are always used together, so you can learn them by heart as a whole.
This will help you use for example the verb ser in conversations without having to think about the conjugation! I’ll show you how you can learn the conjugation this way in a second.
Conjugation in the present tense
As you progress in your Spanish-learning process, you’ll notice that there are a lot of tenses in Spanish. For now, we’ll focus only on el presente (the present tense), which allows us to talk about things as they currently are.
Remember that the verb ser is used to talk about permanent or lasting traits.
Talking about Nationality
- Yo soy mexicana. (I am Mexican)
- Tú eres canadiense. (You are Canadian)
- Ella es escocesa / Él es escocés. (S/he is Scottish)
- Usted es de Inglaterra. (Formal you come from England)
- Nosotras somos de Australia. (We come from Australia)
- Nosotros somos de Australia. (We come from Australia)
- Ustedes son alemanes. (Plural you are German)
- Ellas son irlandesas. (They are Irish)
- Ellos son irlandeses. (They are Irish)
Learn these conjugations
If you paid attention, you might have noticed that some conjugations are repeated. Therefore, although ser is an irregular verb, you just have to learn five different conjugations:
- Yo soy — I am
- Tú eres — You are
- Ella / Él / Usted es — She / He is, but Formal you are
- Nosotras / Nosotros somos — We are
- Ustedes / Ellas / Ellos son — Plural you, They are
So how can you learn those as “chunks”, like I mentioned before?
One of the easiest ways is by memorizing flashcards with full Spanish sentences, where you have to fill in the correct conjugation!
- Question: _____________ (I am) mexicana.
Do you remember the answer? Here it is:
- Answer: Yo soy mexicana.
You can create flashcards like this for all the conjugations (and with the example sentences used above or the ones that I’ll give you in the rest of this article). After a while, it’ll become second nature for you to say “yo soy, tú eres, etc!”.
Talking about Occupation
You will also use ser when talking about your occupation or that of others.
- Yo soy lingüista. (I’m a linguist)
- Tú eres dentista. (You are a dentist)
- Ella es abogada. (She is a lawyer) / Él es abogado. (He is a lawyer)
- Usted es profesora — if you are talking to a woman / Usted es profesor — if you are talking to a man (You are a professor)
- Nosotras somos científicas (We are scientists) / Nosotros somos bailarines (We are dancers)
- Ustedes son policías (You are police officers)
- Ellas son traductoras (They are translators) / Ellos son intérpretes (They are interpreters)
You might have noticed that there are times when an O is used instead of an A, as in nosotras and nosotros or ellas and ellos. Well, that’s because Spanish is a gendered language, and whatever the trait, it should match the relevant gender: nosotras somos científicas, ellas son científicas, nosotros somos científicos, ellos son científicos.
Talking about Gender
Speaking of gender, the verb ser allows us to indicate whether someone is a woman or a man.
- Yo soy mujer. (I am a woman)
- Tú eres hombre. (You are a man)
- Ustedes son mujeres (You guys are women)
- Ellos son hombres. (They are men)
Character, skills, and appearance
If you’re describing someone’s character, skills or appearance, you also use the verb “ser”. Like for example:
- Yo soy morena. (I am a brunette)
- Tú eres guapo. (You are good-looking)
We actually have a whole video with Spring Spanish teacher Maria Fernanda about describing people where you’ll learn tons of useful chunks, so why don’t you go check that one out?
FREE Spanish Training
¡Muy bien! You are more than ready to use the verb ser correctly. ¡Eso es genial! (That’s great!) It’s definitely not everything there is to learn about Spanish, though, so if you want to master this beautiful language, not only should you go ahead and watch all the videos on our channel, but you should also sign up to the Free Spanish Training on our website.
By doing so, not only will you get free sample lessons, but you will also discover the method we use at our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish.