When To Use Ser, Estar & Hay | “To Be” In Spanish | Spanish For Beginners Lesson 5

Learn When To Use Ser, Estar & Hay

In the 5th and final lesson of this free series for beginners, you’ll learn when to use each of the three Spanish verbs that all mean “to be”- ser, estar and hay. Along the way, Jesús & Rocío also cover a lot of useful vocabulary for describing where you live. Enjoy!


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Below is a transcript of the video. Read it after watching to reinforce your knowledge of when to use ser, estar and hay.

The role play:

Jesús: ¡Hola Rocío!

Rocío: ¡Hola Jesús!

Jesús: ¿Cómo estás?

Rocío: ¡Muy bien! Jesús, una pregunta. ¿Tú, de dónde eres?

Jesús: Yo soy de Cádiz.

Rocío: ¿Y cómo es Cádiz?

Jesús: Cádiz no es ni muy grande ni muy pequeña. Y está en la costa, en el Sur de España. Es famosa por sus playas y por su carnaval. Es limpia y segura, y su gente es muy amable. Hay museos, hay una catedral muy importante. Pero no hay un buen equipo de fútbol. ¿Y tú de dónde eres?

Rocío: Yo soy de Madrid.

Jesús: ¿Y cómo es MadrId?

Rocío: Madrid es muy grande. Madrid es la capital de España, y está en el centro. No hay playas, pero hay bares, restaurantes, museos, y hay dos equipos de fútbol muy importantes, el Atlético Madrid, y el Real Madrid.

The explanation:

Jesús: Well as we said before, today we are going to work on these three different verbs: “Ser”, “estar” and “hay”. “Ser”, “estar” and “hay” are translated into to be. And it sometimes makes it difficult for the students to understand it. So, the first verb, the verb “ser”. There are many uses for this verb, but today we’re going to work on the main use, that is for talking about permanent characteristics. Like for example: “¿Cómo es ella?: (literally) how is she? “Ella es alta”: She is tall, it is something permanent, she’s going to be tall forever. So today we’re going to use the topic of “la ciudad”: the city, but just like an example, because you can use these verbs in many other different situations. So the verb “ser”, for example, in the case of my city, during the conversation, I said: Cádiz, for example, “Cádiz es bonita o es fea”, so it means beautiful, or ugly. “Grande, pequeña”: big, or small. “Segura, peligrosa”: safe, or dangerous. “Limpia, sucia”: clean, or dirty. “Cara, barata”: Expensive, or cheap. “Aburrida, divertida”: Boring, or funny. “Tranquila, turística, etc”, like quiet, touristic and any other thing. And I also used the structure that is: “No es ni”, and I said: “No es ni grande ni pequeña”, it means: it is neither big nor small. It can be used for example, in any other situation, like: “¿Cómo es ella?, ella no es ni alta ni baja, ni gorda ni delgada”.

Rocío: And then we have “estar” …here there are many, many uses. But today we’re going to learn that we are going to use “estar” for location: “ubicación”. “¿Dónde está?”: where is it? “¿Dónde está?” And some vocabulary: “En el centro”: (in the) center. “A las afueras”: (on the) outskirts. “En la costa”: (by the) coast. “En la montaña”: (in the) mountain. “En la frontera”: (at the) border. And then we can use the country, “en España, en Colombia, en Francia”. Then we can also say: “Lejos, cerca (de)”: far, near. And here we have the cardinal points. North: norte. South: sur. West: oeste. East: este.

Jesús: And the third verb is the verb “hay” that actually comes from the infinitive “haber”, but we’re not going to conjugate it. It means there is or there are, and it is going to be always the same, always “hay”. So “¿qué hay?”: what is there? Or what things are there? And it means that we’re talking about “existencia”, the existence of something, the first time you talk about something. So you can say: there are bars, there are restaurants. “Restaurantes, bares.”. “Hay restaurantes, hay bares.”. “Cines, teatros, museos”: cinemas, theatres, museums. “Hospitales”: hospitals. “Farmacias”: pharmacies. “Iglesias, catedrales”: churches, cathedrals. “Escuelas, colegios”: they are synonyms and they mean schools. “Aeropuertos”: airports. “Supermercados”: supermarkets. And “tiendas”: shops. Pay attention to two different things, the first thing here is that we are using all the time the feminine form of the adjectives, because we are talking about the city, and we are also using the plural form here. So “hay restaurants”: there are restaurants. If you want to say there is one restaurant, you have to say “hay un restaurante”. Or in feminine (e.g.) there is a pharmacy: “hay una farmacia”.