Free Spanish lessons ser and estar from EBC TEFL courses

We offer free Spanish lessons because some of our TEFL training centres are in Spanish speaking countries. Spanish is not a requirement for teaching, but it is very useful for everyday life outside the classroom.

We dedicate this series of free Spanish lessons to people like Wahiba Sekkai and others on our professional teaching group who would like to know more about the Spanish language.

Our series of free Spanish lessons is designed by people who have learned Spanish as a foreign language. We have first hand experiences of the learning process.

Aside from learning some Spanish, you will also find these free Spanish lessons useful: 1) because they will enlighten you to English grammar and 2) they will enlighten you as to where and why Spanish speakers have problems when learning English.

To be: Ser and Estar

At the foundation of English, we have the verb “to be”. There is only one form and we use it for everything.

  • “I am Jim.”
  • “You are a doctor.”
  • “David is tall.”
  • “Madrid is in Spain.”
  • “I am tired.”

Spanish has the same foundation except it has two verbs to express the English equivalent of “to be”. These are ser and estar. Both verbs are irregular and they are used for different purposes.

IMPORTANT: Spanish conjugates verbs to such an extent that almost all conjugated instances are unique. Most of the time, spoken and written Spanish do not use pronouns. Spanish verbs always end with ar, er or ir. Most verbs are regular, a minority are not. The total number of Spanish words is less than in English. Depending on who you believe the total is between 30 to 50 percent less than English. English has two verb conjugations: present and past. Spanish has sixteen. The sixteen conjugations replace the English use of modal words to create other verb tenses. Modals are words like will, would, could, may, etc.

Let us look at Spanish pronouns

SpanishEnglishSpanishEnglish
YoINosotrosWe (masculine)
YouNosotrasWe (feminine)
ÉlHeVosotrosYou (plural masculine)
EllaSheVosotrasYou (plural feminine)
UstedYou (formal)EllosThey (masculine)
EllasThey (feminine)
UstedesYou (plural formal)

Some simple Spanish pronoun rules

  • Spanish has no pronoun for “it” in the sense that we understand. For all intents and purposes, “it” does not exist in Spanish as a pronoun.
  • Usted and ustedes are rarely used in Spain but widely used in other countries for example in Mexico. Their use in Spain is limited to addressing important people, people you have never met before and old people. Both pronouns convey deep respect. Their use in other countries varies. In Mexico usted and ustedes are used by everyone including children when they talk to each other. Hardly anyone uses and vosotros/as. Argentina has managed to get rid of usted, ustedes, tú, vosotros and vosotras. They have replaced the lot with the single word vos.
  • Ellos/nosotros/vosotros and ellas/ nosotras/vosotras reflect gender. The gender rule in Spanish is that a 100% masculine group uses ellos/nosotros/vosotros, a 100% feminine group uses ellas/nosotras/vosotras and a mixed gender group uses ellos/nosotros/vosotros.

Simple Spanish gender rules

In general, Spanish words ending in “a”, “ión” and “dad” are feminine and the rest are masculine. There are exceptions like “programa” which is masculine, but we will keep it simple for now.

We will now conjugate ser and estar for the present tense.

PronounSerEstarEnglish
YosoyestoyI am
eresestásYou are
Él/EllaesestáHe/She is
UstedesestáYou are
Nosotros/NosotrassomosestamosWe are
Vosotros/VosotrassoisestáisYou are
Ellos/EllassonestánThey are
UstedessonestánYou are

IMPORTANT: Spanish is much more precise with conjugations and pronouns than English is. Even though usted and ustedes mean “you”, they do not use the same conjugation as tú, vosotros or vosotras.

If ser and estar both mean, “to be” why are they used?

For English speakers it is a mystery. The reason behind having two verbs is to give extra meaning and precision.

In general:

  • Ser indicates permanence
  • Estar indicates none-permanence and position.

Ser examples

  • “Soy Jim y soy inglés.” (“I am Jim and I am English”) – Permanent
  • “David es alto.” (“David is tall.”) – Permanent
  • “Eres médico.” (“You are a doctor.”) – Professions are classed as permanent

Estar examples

  • “Estoy cansado.” (“I am tired.”) – Temporary
  • “Madrid está en España.” (“Madrid is in Spain.”) – Positional
  • “El libro está en el cajón.” (“The book is in the drawer.”) – Positional

IMPORTANT: pronouns are optional if the meaning is clear. “Soy Jim” is the same as “Yo soy Jim.” The “Yo” is not necessary because “soy” is a unique conjugation for the first person singular. The “ñ” is unique to Spanish. It is pronounced like the combination of the letters “ny” in English. For example, in Spanish we would write “Cataluña”. To express this in English with the same pronunciation it would be “Catalunya”. There is nothing mystical about the “ñ”, you just have to practice saying it.

Ser and estar can have an effect on meaning

As ser and estar both mean “to be” in English, we tend to confuse their use.

Take care with this. Here is an example.

The noun “católico” means catholic in English. Let us make the simple English sentence: “I am catholic.”

This can translate in two ways in Spanish:

  • “Soy católico.” (Permanent)
  • “Estoy católico.” (Not permanent)

Soy católico means that the person is a follower of the Catholic Church.

Estoy católico means that the person is feeling good and healthy. It has nothing at all to do with religion.

A brief introduction to accents

You have probably seen a few letters in the Spanish words that have an accent at the top. Accents help pronunciation. Accents only apply to vowels. There are only two accents, right facing and two dots.

Here is a list of letters that can have an accent.

á é í ó ú ü

The accent tells you that the vowel must be emphasised when you say it. Saying words in Spanish is easy because almost all letters have a single sound so you say the word as you read it. Spanish does not have the problems that English has regarding, for example vowel pronunciation modifiers like the letter “e”. Bit and bite have a different “i” sound in English. If they were Spanish words, the “i” sound would be identical in both words.

A little Spanish vocabulary

Now that you know how to say “I am”“Soy” (pronounced just like the name of the sauce) and “Estoy” (pronounced as you read it), you can practice with some vocabulary. Words ending with /a show the feminine form, for example alto/a. Alto is masculine. Alta is feminine. See if you can figure out which ones go with ser and which ones go with estar.

inglés (English masculine)

inglesa (English feminine)

estadounidense (American both genders)

australiano (Australian masculine)

australiana (Australian masculine)

canadiense (Canadian both genders)

alto/a (tall)

bajo/a (short)

joven (young)

viejo/a (old)

alegre (happy)

triste (sad)

ilusionado/a (excited about something)

cansado/a (tired)

borracho/a (drunk)

dormido/a (asleep)

despierto/a (awake)

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