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To Be - Ser / Estar

The difference between the verb “ser” (to be) and the verb “estar” (to be) – A diferença entre o verbo ser e estar

The verb ser is used for conditions or characteristics that are permanent and the verb estar is used for transitory or not permanent conditions or characteristics.

Compare:

  • Maria é bonita (Maria is beautiful) – Maria is really beautiful, maybe since she was born.

 

  • Maria está bonita (Maria is beautiful) – In that moment Maria is beautiful, but maybe she doesn’t look beautiful all the time.

Conjugation of the verb ser and estar  

Usually Brazilians don’t use the person “tu” to refer to the person you. But in some regions in Brazil such as Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul, people use “tu” but in an “incorrect” way, along with the verb that should be used for the person "você".

For example, if you read Portuguese Grammar books that are taught in schools in Brazil, you’ll see the following conjugation for the verb ser: 

Singular

1

Eu

sou

Tu

és

3

Ele / Ela / Você

é

Plural

Nós

somos

2

Vós

sois

3

Eles /  Elas / Vocês

são

 

In Brazil, “Vós” is rarely used and “Tu” is usually used with the verb conjugated for the persons “Ele”, “Ela” and “Você

For a better comprehension of the verbs and persons, it is good to separate what is singular from what is plural. Eu (I), você (you), ele (he), ela (she), isso (that), isto (this) a gente (it means “we” – but it is a singular noun) and any other singular words are in the singular section. Nós (we), eles (they), elas (they, but just for a group of women or feminine nouns), vocês (you) and all plural words, are in the plural section.

 Let’s study the chart for didactics purpose.

 Verb “ser”

Singular

 Eu

sou

Ele / Ela / Você/ Isso / Isto / A gente /  Singular words

é

Plural

Nós

somos

Eles / Elas / Vocês / Plural words

são

 

Examples:

  • Eu sou feliz. (I’m happy.)

  • Ela é americana. (She is American.)

  • Nós somos primos. (We are cousins.)

 

 Verb “estar”

 

Singular

Eu

 estou

Ele / Ela / Você/ Isso / Isto / A gente / Singular words

 está

Plural

Nós

 estamos

Eles / Elas / Vocês / Plural words

 estão

 

Examples:

  • Eu estou doente. (I’m sick.)

  • Nós estamos com fome. (We are hungry.)

  • Vocês estão cansados? (Are you tired?)

 

 Note:

 Both “a gente and “nós” mean “we”, but “a gente” is more colloquial and informal than “nós”. “A gente” is a singular word and “nós” is plural

 Compare:

  • A gente está com sede. (We’re thirsty.)

  • Nós estamos com sede. (We’re thirsty.)

Important Note

1- When referring to a place that a person is located, the verb “estar” must be used, and when referring to a place that a person is from, the verb “ser” is used.

Compare: 

Eu estou em São Paulo. (I’m in São Paulo.) - Observe that in this example the verb estar was used

Eu sou de São Paulo. (I’m from São Paulo.) - Observe that in this example the verb ser was used

Important Notes

2- For nationalities and professions use also verb ser

Compare: 

Eu sou dentista. (I’m dentist.)

Eu sou brasileira. (I’m brazilian.)