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To use ser or estar: that is the question.



"To be or not to be; that is the question," ruminated the troubled prince in Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The student of Spanish has a more immediate concern: which verb to choose when you find yourself needing ser or estar.  The verbs ser and estar are both translated "to be," but in Spanish they convey two different meanings.


When you say "The pear is green," you are making a statement about that piece of fruit.  You may be saying simply that the fruit is green in color, or you may be using the adjective "green" in a less literal way, to imply that the pear is not yet ripe.  In the first case, you are referring to an essential unchanging characteristic of the fruit, so you should use ser: La pera es verde.  In the second case, you would use estar, because you are referring to a temporary condition that will change when the pear ripens: La pera está verde. 


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