3.5 Adjectives that Change Meaning with SER and ESTAR

These, among other adjectives, change meaning when used with ser and estar. This is not, however, a long list to be memorized; many of the uses with ser describe what is the norm or an inherent characteristic while those of estar reflect a condition or state that differs from the norm or is subject to change.

ser estar
ser aburrido – to be boring estar aburrido – to be bored
ser (un) borracho – to be a drunk estar borracho – to be drunk
ser distraído – to be absentminded estar distraído – to be distracted
ser enfermo – to be an invalid estar enfermo – to be ill
ser interesado – to be selfish estar interesado – to be interested
ser libre – to be free (unrestrained) estar libre – to be unoccupied
ser listo – to be smart, clever estar listo – to be ready
ser nuevo – to be new estar nuevo – to be different, new in appearance
ser orgulloso – to be haughty estar orgulloso – to be proud
ser rico – to be rich, to taste good estar rico – to be delicious
ser seguro – to be safe estar seguro – to be sure
ser solo – to be lonely estar solo – to be alone
ser verde – to be green, to be without experience estar verde – to be unripe
ser vivo – to be sharp, alert estar vivo – to be alive

Vocabulario básico


el café- coffee, café
la cosa- thing
la hija- daughter
el hijo- son
los hijos- children
el señor (Sr.)- Mr.
la señora (Sra.)- Mrs.
los señores (Sres.)- Mr. and Mrs.
la señorita (Srta.)- Miss


barato- cheap, inexpensive
borracho- drunk
caliente- warm, hot
caro- expensive, dear
distraído- absentminded, distracted
enfermo- ill, sick (“invalid,” as noun)
frío- cold
medio- half (media- half past the hour)
orgulloso- proud, haughty
pequeño- little, small
rico- rich, wealthy, delicious
seguro- safe, sure
solo- alone, lonely
vivo- alive, clever, sharp


bien- well
mal- bad, badly
pronto- soon
siempre- always
todavía- still, yet
ya- already (sometimes, “now” or “later”; See section 12.4.)

Otras palabras:

algo- something
porque- because
¿por qué- why
que- that, which, who


hay que + inf.- it is necessary (to do something)
¿qué tal + (form of estar)?- how are you/ is he, she, etc. (doing)?

Last revised on June 16, 2021.