Both ser and estar can be translated as ‘to be’, but they are not interchangeable, so it’s very important to know the difference between them.
Ser is used for unchanging (or unlikely to change), state or conditions, as well as inherent qualities: (location, nationality, profession, features, demeanor, etc.).
Meu nome é Fernando. My name is Fernando.
Eu sou brasileiro. I am Brazilian.
Eu sou professor. I am a teacher.
Minha camiseta é preta. My t-shirt is black.
It is also used for telling the time:
Que horas são? / What time is it?
É uma hora. / It’s one o’clock.
Estar is used for changing (or likely to change) state or conditions (feelings, moods, change of location, weather conditions, etc.).
Eu estou em casa. / I am at home.
Eu estou escrevendo esse post. / I am writing this post.
O meu cachorro está aqui ao meu lado. / My dog is here by my side.
Hojeestá chovendo. / Today is raining.
Sometimes you can use either ser or estar, but they will have different meanings. Look at these two sentences.
Ana é muito bonita.
Ana está muito bonita.
They both can be translated as “Ana is very beautiful”.
However, the first one, with the verb ser, means that Ana is inherently beautiful, and the second one, with the verb estar, means that Ana is beautiful right now (maybe because of what she is wearing, her hair, etc.) – in English it would be closer to using the verb to look, ‘Ana looks beautiful’.
Now that you know the difference between ser and estar, try this exercise:
O Leãozinho, a Brazilian classic, by Caetano Veloso
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