“To have” (“tener”) and “to be” (“ser” and “estar”) – (Spanish-ES)

“To have” and “to be” are the bread and butter of a new language, and so it’s a good place to start when you’re looking at learning your first verbs. You’ll also learn the personal pronouns here, and get accustomed to the idea of writing out verbs in their conjugations, i.e. the different forms the verb takes depending on the subject of the sentence.

The infinitive of a verb is its “to” form, such as “to have”, “to play”, and is usually the form you use when talking about the verb as a concept. There are three grammatical “persons”: first, second, and third. Each of these persons has a singular form and a plural form, giving a total of six combinations. The first person contains the speaker, i.e. “I” in the singular, or “we” in the plural. The second person is the person you are addressing, i.e. “you” in the singular to one person, or to a group of people, that doesn’t include the speaker. The third person is neither the speaker nor the addressee; in the singular, it can be “he”, “she”, or “it”, and in the plural “they”. It’s a good idea to get used to the terminology, if you’re not already familiar, for personal pronouns, so when you hear “second person plural” you know exactly what it refers to – plural “you”, in this case.

Pronouns
First person singular yo I
Second person singular
usted (formal)
you
Third person singular él
ella
he
she
First person plural nosotros (group of males or mixed gender)
nosotras (group of females)
we
Second person plural vosotros (group of males or mixed gender)
vosotras (group of females)
ustedes (formal)
you
Third person plural ellos they

In Spain, the words for “you” are usually used above, i.e. “tú/usted” for singular, and “vosotros/ustedes” for plural. However, it’s worth being aware that “vosotros” is rarely used in Latin America, where “ustedes” is used in general. Also, in some areas, “vos” replaces the singular informal “tú”.


As in Italian, Spanish pronouns are often eliminated from the sentence, so “tengo” (“I have”) is equivalent to “yo tengo”. The pronoun is usually included where needed for emphasis. NOTE that the polite “you” forms are conjugated in the third person, i.e. “tú tienes”, but “usted tiene”, NOT “usted tienes”.


TENER (“TO HAVE”)

(yo) tengo I have
(tú) tienes you have
(él/ella/usted) tiene he/she has, you (formal) have
(nosotros) tenemos we have
(vosotros) tenéis you have
(ellos/ellas/ustedes) tienen they/you (formal) have

In many languages, “to be” is the most irregular verb. For example, in English, where most verbal forms only change for the “he/she/it” form (by adding -s, e.g. “he plays”), “to be” has many different and odd forms, “I am”, “we are”. “Ser” and “estar” are also particularly irregular in Spanish. NOTE: When to use “ser” and “estar” will be covered in another post, but the quick version is that “ser” is used for constant conditions or characteristics, such as “the apple is red”, whereas “estar” is used for qualities that are transient, e.g. “she is quiet”, with the added implication of “at the moment, but later on she may not be”.


SER (“TO BE”)

(yo) soy I am
(tú) eres you are
(él/ella/usted) es he/she is, you (formal) are
(nosotros) somos we are
(vosotros) sois you are
(ellos/ellas/ustedes) son they/you (formal) are

ESTOY (“TO BE”)

(yo) estoy I am
(tú) estás you are
(él/ella/usted) está he/she is, you (formal) are
(nosotros) estamos we are
(vosotros) estáis you are
(ellos/ellas/ustedes) están they/you (formal) are
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