Ser vs Estar in Portuguese Complete Guide

Ser vs Estar in Portuguese | Complete Guide

After a while without writing, here is one more post! Hello, folks! How have you been? Today I am going to focus on the difference between Ser vs Estar in Portuguese, as it seems to confuse a lot of students, which I can totally understand.

If you are one of the ones that get mixed signals from these verbs, then you are probably the speaker of a language that does not use two different verbs to express “to be”.

Well, romance languages in general do this, and it can become quite tricky to get a grasp on how to conjugate these verbs and when to use them.

But first things first.

Let us look at the conjugation of them in the Simple Present (or, in Portuguese, Presente do Indicativo).

They are highly irregular, so you really need to learn them by heart, and this can be achieved by starting to pay even more attention to regular conversations in which they are used and trying to take some meaning out of it (if you are more of a “learn on the go” kind of student). If, on the other hand, you like to learn your stuff at home, sitting down and repeating them many times and then trying to do some exercises with them can be a really good thing. Flashcards could help too! Mix these two methods and I am sure you will learn them in no time!

I also created a video about the difference between ser and estar with practice examples. Make sure to check it out here:

Actually, this part is taken out of my A1-Course, which you can currently get to a discounted price when purchasing the a A1-B2 bundle. Check out the course bundle here!

Conjugations of Ser and Estar in the PRESENTE DO INDICATIVO


Eu sou

Tu és

Ele / Ela / Você é

Nós somos

Vocês são

Eles / Elas são


Eu estou

Tu estás

Ele / Ela / Você está

Nós estamos

Vocês estão

Eles / Elas estão

I would advise that you learn them early in your study process because we really like and use these verbs a lot.


When to use Ser vs Estar in Portuguese

But now, when to use one or the other if both mean the same?

In English, we say both:

  • I am tall


  • I am confused

However, the translation for these two sentences into Portuguese is:

  • Eu sou alta (if you are a female, whereas if you are a male, it would be “Eu sou alto”…but more on that later in another post…let us concentrate on the verb)


  • Eu estou confusa (again, if you are female, “confuso” if you are a male).

Well, this can be puzzling right? (ser “puzzling” ou estar “puzzling”!?)

Do you think you can figure out why in the first example we use the verb “ser” and in the second we use “estar”?

(Think about it for some seconds and write it on a paper…later you can see if you were right or not!…I am about to reveal it).



So, if you thought and wrote down that it has something to do with the fact that one seems more permanent than the other, you were quite right.


#Verb “SER”

When we want to say something about ourselves, others or other things that have a more permanent status, like body characteristics that won’t likely change (either because you being tall and then becoming short is highly improbable because you won’t likely cut an inch off your legs to get smaller…I hope!..or because it has been a permanent state for a long time and no one thinks it is likely to change…like if I would say “She is skinny” and she has been skinny for most of her life, although it could theoretically change, it is highly improbable by statistics (if you want to call it that..=)), we use the verb “ser”.

Let me summarise it for you then.

We use the verb “ser”, when we want to:

  • Introduce ourselves or others.

Example: “Eu sou a Mia” (“I am Mia”…very unlikely to change);

  • Tell our nationality.

Example: “Eu sou Portuguesa”. (“I am Portuguese”…I know, it could change…but it is also unlikely).

  • Tell our profession.

Example: “Eu sou professora.” (“I am a teacher”. Theoretically also could change, but we used to believe that a profession is forever….times change but grammars not so much, what can I say?)

  • Indicate our place of origin, be it the country, the city, the village, etc.

Example: “Eu sou do Porto”/ “Eu sou de Portugal” (“I am from Porto.”, “I am from Portugal.”)

  • Talk about a personal or physical characteristic 

Example: “Ela é bonita”/ “Ela é simpática” (“She is pretty”/ “She is nice”)

  • Tell our civil state.

Example: “Eu sou casada”/ “Eu sou solteira” (“I am married” / “I am single”)

  • Tell the time.

Example: “São oito horas” / “É uma hora” (“It´s eight o´clock” / It´s one o´clock”…many combinations possible).

  • Describe geographical localisation 

Example: “O Porto é em Portugal” (“Porto is in Portugal”).

So, if I wanted to introduce myself and speak a little about time and places, with all these examples above, I would say something like:

Olá! Eu sou a Mia, eu sou Portuguesa. Eu sou professora e sou do Porto. Eu sou alta e magra. Eu sou solteira. Agora são 5 horas.

Can you do the same exercise about yourself?


#Verb “ESTAR”

We use verb “estar” when we want to describe or talk about things which are more temporary. For example, when we say “Eu estou confusa” it means that for some reason you feel confused now (probably because of the verbs, I get ya!). However, later on, if you get a better explanation for the subject that is making you confused, you will probably get clearance and you will cease to be in the state of confusion.

Didn’t get it yet? Don’t worry, that state will change if you continue reading the examples. I hope!

We use the verb “estar”, when we want to:

  • Talk about a temporary state or condition.

Example: ” Eu estou cansada” (“I am tired”. I wish that would be more temporary than it actually is, in my case 😛 . But you get the picture, right? You are tired now, but it is just a temporary state. Later, if you sleep and rest, you will probably not be tired anymore and that will change into something else).

  • Move localization.

Example: “O caderno está em cima da mesa” (“The notebook is on top of the table”. Since a notebook is something portable, it is likely gonna be moved from the top of the table, therefore this localization is something temporary).

  • Talk about the weather

Example: “Hoje está sol” (“Today is sunny”. Weather is something really changeable, so I guess this one goes without much explanation.=))

  • Greet others.

Example: “Como estás?” (“How are you?”. This is also because normally a person can be good or not so well, but these states will also likely change).


And…that´s it! Uffff…You got through it!

I hope you enjoyed my post about Ser vs Estar in Portuguese and that you feel confident to apply the rules in order to choose the correct verb. In some following posts I will be going more into detail about the usage of the Present Continuous in Portuguese with the form “estar + a + infinitive of the main verb” and some other constructions with the verb “estar”.

Let me know what you thought about this post and if you have any questions. Have you experienced any difficulties with these two verbs? Does your language also have two equivalents for the verb “to be”?

Leave a comment below 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you.



10 thoughts on “Ser vs Estar in Portuguese | Complete Guide

  1. Olá a Mia, tudobem? A very interesting post about these two important verbs in português.
    I see that ” Eu sou casada” uses the permanent verb ser. I don’t know what to make of that,
    Well it’s supposed to be a permanent state I can see that.
    I know how to conjugate the verb ser but still have to learn how to conjugate estar.
    In my native language Irish Gaelic we use two verbs “to be”. The absolute form is-“Tá” which expresses a state or condition (temporary) and the other verb is “Is” pronounced like ‘iss’ or hiss in English. This 2nd. verb expresses existence.
    So if you want to say you are a teacher you would say “Is múinteoir mé. To say you are tired we use the first verb like you do in português, which is, “Tá mé tuirseach”. In Gaelic.
    It takes time and practice for an English speaker to master this.
    You explained it very well, thank you very much.
    Até noite, Tchau!

    1. Hey Patrick!

      Thank you so much for your answer to my post. I am really glad that you found it useful!
      I also really find it interesting that in Gaelic you have the two verbs as well, and as I understand they are used more or less in the same way. In Portuguese, you would also use the one that expressed “existence” to say “Eu sou professora” and the one which is more temporary to say “Eu estou cansada”, exactly =)
      So, yes, it is amazing how we can find parallels in languages that at first sight seem so far away from each other.

      And about “ser casado” (to be married)…well, I explain this in my course by saying that I guess when Portuguese started being Portuguese (or even when Latin started being Latin…as Portuguese comes from Latin), if you got married, you would probably be married for life…that still does not explain why being single is also expressed with the permanent verb, but I guess that since they had to use it for “married” or “widow”, they just changed it for all marital status. I don’t know, these are just guesses!

      Thank you again for your message!


  2. This really brings these verbs into reality for me. I see the light!

    1. Olá Dorinda!
      I am so glad I could help. Keep in touch for more.
      Kind regards and beijinhos,

  3. Hi Mia,
    I have been living and working in the Algarve for nearly 8 months and wish I had found this earlier!
    It’s so interesting. I love learning languages and am surrounded by Portuguese all day at work. My comprehension is good because I have French and Italian, but my oral skills won’t improve until I get to grips with the grammar so that I can form sentences.
    This is such a great resource! Thank you xx

    1. Hi Amy!

      Thank you so much for your comment. I wish you had found this earlier but I think you can still benefit from it even now =)
      About speaking, you just have to keep trying it and trying. Do not be shy, we appreciate when someone tries to speak Portuguese so you will be fine. And even if you make mistakes, these are part of learning and they will help you become better. My advice is really that you try =)
      Feel free to explore my website further. I am always posting new articles and uploading new materials. I also am currently developing my own online course. You can find two lectures online already.
      Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you any further.

  4. Your article was very interesting to read. I took 2 semesters of Spanish in college and I also have a friend who speaks Portuguese. I think it’s great how you did a break down of ser and estar and how you kept me engaged as a reader. Learning languages are confusing and I think it’s brilliant that you make it so easy to learn.

    1. Hi! Thank you very much for your comment. Is your friend native Portuguese or did he learn the language? 🙂 Yes, I tried to break it down so it is easy to understand as I think that ser vs estar is often confusing for students. If you like this post you can also check out my material page, there are some free pdfs for practicing.

      Thank you very much once again 🙂


  5. I didn’t realize the Portuguese language also had ser and estar. I took Spanish in High School, and always had difficulty on when to use ser and when to use estar. So ser is used for a more permanent instance where estar is more temporary. Very interesting. Thank you for solving this puzzle for me!

    1. Hey Kevin! Thanks for your comment. I am glad that I was able to help you solving one more linguistic mystery! Just pass by whenever you feel like and you might find some other things which will interest you as I am constantly updating my website. 

      Thanks a lot once again,


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