Understanding the Verb SER in Spanish: A Beginner’s Guide to SER Conjugation in 4 Tenses

When learning Spanish, the very first verb that you’re introduced to is SER. The verb SER in Spanish is one of the most important in Spanish. It is also one of the most irregular Spanish verbs. 

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SER is equivalent to the English verb to-be; but it shares the meaning with another Spanish irregular verb, ESTAR
The SER in Spanish is used to refer to permanent qualities.

You can easily memorize the conjugation of SER in different tenses with different endings with the help of this video. As you move further ahead with your studies, it’ll become second nature to conjugate SER in Spanish.

Today we will focus on the Spanish verb SER and we will learn:

1. What does SER mean in Spanish?

SER means TO BE. Generally speaking, the verb SER refers to permanent qualities.

Take a look at the following examples:

Los inviernos son fríos en mi región, pero este invierno está bastante templado.
Winters are cold in my area, but this winter is pretty mild.

Las rosas son hermosas flores.
Roses are beautiful flowers.

Él es un excelente cantante.
He is an excellent singer.

El español es un idioma global.
Spanish is a global language.

2. SER Conjugation in Spanish + Example Sentences

Ser is an irregular verb so it doesn’t follow a common conjugation pattern. In practice, it has different forms in all tenses. You can see it in the conjugation tables below!

Let’s check out how to use this verb in example sentences!

3. Conjugate the verb SER in the Present Tense

In the present tense, ser is used to refer to states, present habits and universal truths.

SER in the Present Tense

SpanishEnglishExample
Yo soyI amSoy Martín.
I’m Martín.
Tú/Vos eres/sosYou are¿Tú eres Germán? ¿Vos sos Germán
Are you Germán?
Él/ella/ustedesHe, she, you (formal) isÉl es alto y ella es baja.
He’s tall and she’s short.
Nosotros/nosotras somosWe areNosotros somos hermanos.
We’re siblings.
Vosotros/vosotras soisYou areVosotras sois amables.
You are kind.
Ustedes sonYou are¿Ustedes son mexicanos?
Are you Mexican?
Ellos/ellas sonThey areLos delfines son mamíferos.
Dolphins are mammals.

4. Spanish Conjugation of SER in the Past Tense (Preterite)

For the past tense, ser is used to refer to actions or states that were completed at a specific point of time in the past.

SER in Preterite

SpanishEnglishExample
Yo fuiI wasFui feliz en Miami.
I was happy in Miami.
Tú/Vos fuisteYou wereFuiste importante para mí.
You were important to me.
Él/ella/usted fueHe, she, you (formal) wereElla fue estudiante de esta escuela en 2001.
She was a student at this school in 2001.
Nosotros/nosotras fuimosWe wereFuimos los mejores y ganamos.
We were the best and we won.
Vosotros/vosotras fuisteisYou wereVosotras fuisteis amables.
You were kind.
Ustedes fueronYou wereElla y tú fueron buenos estudiantes.
You and her were good students.
Ellos/ellas fueronThey wereLos payasos fueron divertidos.
The clowns were fun.

5. Conjugation Chart of SER in Imperfect (Imperfecto)

In the imperfect tense, SER is used to refer to past habits and to make descriptions of past objects, people or situations.

In this sense, it is really similar to English where you would instead say “used to” something or someone.

SER in Imperfect

SpanishEnglishExample
Yo eraI wasYo era una princesa para él.
I was a princess to him.
Tú/Vos erasYou wereEras muy divertido antes.
You used to be fun. 
Él/ella/usted eraHe, she, you (formal) wereMi casa de la niñez era grande.
My childhood home was large.
Nosotros/nosotras éramosWe wereÉramos niños en 1990.
We were kids in 1990.
Vosotros/vosotras eraisYou were Vosotros erais médicos antes de jubilarse. You were doctors before retiring.
Ustedes eranYou wereUstedes eran médicos antes de jubilarse.
You were doctors before retiring.
Ellos/ellas eranThey wereLas mañanas en la playa eran frescas.
The mornings on the beach were cool.

6. How Do You Conjugate the Verb SER in the Future Tense?

For future actions, it’s fairly easy to use SER in Spanish. It is used to refer to future actions and to make predictions. 

SER in Future

SpanishEnglishExample
Yo seréI will beCuando crezca, seré millonaria. 
When I grow up, I will be a millionaire.
Tú/Vos serásYou will beSerás padre pronto.
You will be a parent soon. 
Él/ella/usted seráHe, she, you (formal) will beAlgún día será famoso.
He will be famous one day.
Nosotros/nosotras seremosWe will beSeremos abogados el próximo año.
We will be lawyers next year.
Vosotros/vosotras seréis You will be Vosotros seréis mis amigos para siempre.
You will always be my friends.
Ustedes seránYou will beUstedes serán mis amigos para siempre.
You will be my friends forever.
Ellos/ellas seránThey will beLos niños serán adultos un día.
One day, kids will be adults.

7. How to Use the Verb SER in Spanish?

The verb SER is used to describe qualities and states that are considered permanent by the speaker. 

Let’s take a look at an English example sentence:

  • The sun is a star in our solar system. (El sol es una estrella en nuestro sistema solar.)
Ser in Spanish is used for describing permanent quality or state, sun in the solar system
The sun is a star in our solar system. (El sol es una estrella en nuestro sistema solar.)

The verb “is” is used to describe the permanent quality or state of the sun as being a star. The statement implies that the sun has the inherent characteristic of being a star and it is considered a permanent fact by the speaker.

Take a look at the following table to see the uses of SER before we move on to more complex conjugations.

UseExplanationExample
NameTo introduce ourselves or othersSoy Matías y él es mi hermano, Pedro.
I’m Matías and this is my brother, Pedro.
Place of origin and nationalityTo say where something or someone is fromEl Coliseo Romano es de Roma. Es italiano.
The Roman Colosseum is from Rome. It’s Italian.
Profession or occupationTo talk about our professions or occupationsSomos profesoras de español.
We’re Spanish teachers.
Physical appearanceHeight, weight, hair color, etc.Soy rubia, alta y delgada.
I’m fair-haired, tall and slim.
Personality traitsTo talk about personality traits that are considered permanentMi madre es muy paciente y honesta.
My mother is very patient and honest.
PossessionSer de + possessorEl coche rojo es de Juan.
The red car is Juan’s.
Family relationsSer + (relative) de + personElla es la hermana de Quique.
She’s Quique’s sister.
Date
Seasons
Time
To talk about the exact date, seasons or timeHoy es 3 de junio.
Today is June 3rd.
Ahora es otoño.
It’s autumn now.
Son las dos y media de la tarde.
It’s 2:30 p.m.
Material(Object) + ser de + materialEl anillo es de oro.
The ring is (made) of gold.

8. Differences Between Ser and Estar in Spanish

We have two verbs in Spanish, ser and estar that both translate to to be but they have different uses. We use ser to talk about inherent or permanent qualities, like nationality, profession, or defining characteristics.

Estar is used for temporary states, conditions, or locations that can change. We would use ser to say Soy médico (I am a doctor), to highlight the permanent nature of the profession.

However, we would use estar to say Estoy cansado (I am tired), indicating a temporary state.

If you have doubts about the uses of ser vs estar in Spanish, check this video by Mariana from Spring Spanish, where you’ll find everything you need to know.

9. Learn Spanish Irregular Verb Conjugation with Conversation Based Chunking

SER is one of the key irregular verbs in Spanish. It expresses permanent or inherent qualities of people or things, such as where they are from, what they do, who they are, and more.

SER changes its form depending on the tense and mood. A good way to learn how to conjugate SER is by using the Conversation Based Chunking method. This method consists of learning SER in context, by remembering chunks of sentences that use SER in different scenarios.

SER is a verb that you will need a lot in Spanish, so make sure you practice it often and master its conjugation.

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