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.


  • 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 Plural
1 Eu sou Nós somos
2 Tu és Vós sois
3 Ele / Ela / Você é 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.

Ser To be
Singular Eu sou
Ele / Ela / Você/ Isso / Isto / A gente / Singular words é
Plural Nós somos
Eles / Elas / Vocês / Plural words são


  • Eu sou feliz. (I’m happy.)
  • Ela é americana. (She is American.)
  • Nós somos primos. (We are cousins.)
Estar To be
Singular Eu estou
Ele / Ela / Você/ Isso / Isto / A gente / Singular words está
Plural Nós estamos
Eles / Elas / Vocês / Plural words estão


  • Eu estou doente. (I’m sick.)
  • Nós estamos com fome. (We are hungry.)
  • Vocês estão cansados? (Are you tired?)


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


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

Important Notes

  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.


    • 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
  2. For nationalities and professions use also verb ser


    • Eu sou dentista. (I’m dentist.)
    • Eu sou brasileira. (I’m brazilian.)