Here is an excerpt from Master The Uses of Ser & Estar: The Two Most Important and Fundamental Verbs:
Debunking the Myth of Permanent & Temporary
In the realm of Spanish study, there are lists and lists of rules that are used for helping the language learner understand the difference between Ser and Estar. Here are a couple of the rules that we have all seen, time and time again:
For anything that is permanent, use Ser.
For anything that is temporary, use Estar.
There cannot be anything worse than telling this to a Spanish language student. Why? Because the only thing that these rules are going to do is confuse the heck out of people. These rules just don’t cover everything. For example, look at these two properly written sentences:
El hombre está muerto. (The man is dead.) Is he dead only temporarily? Will he come back to life tomorrow, since this seems to be temporary?
Mi primo es policía. (My cousin is a policeman.) Will he be policeman permanently, forever and ever? What if he decides to switch to become a lawyer instead?
These rules are taught in our schools. They are taught via the Internet on Spanish learning websites. These rules are in the Spanish grammar books that I have on my bookshelf in my living room. Now, it doesn’t have to mean that we can’t buy these books and use them. There is certainly some very helpful information in them. I’ve used them with the concept in mind:
“Eat the meat, spit out the bones.”
But why should we have to do that? The authors of these books are simply not telling us the whole story about the usages of Ser and Estar. And that’s where this book comes in. I want you to know the whole story about Ser and Estar.
The “DOCTOR and PLACE” rule is just not good enough.
Here is something that is taught in the Spanish learning world that you may have come across:
“The uses of Ser and Estar can be memorized using the acronyms DOCTOR and PLACE.”
Don’t get me wrong – acronyms can surely be of some help. But the problem that I have with these two lists is that they are incomplete. Here’s what I’m talking about, just in case you haven’t run into these lists before:
There is a lot more where that came from! Clear explanations and handy exercises. You can pick up a copy on Amazon here: