estar estando vs. siendo

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by joelrosenblum, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. joelrosenblum Member

    English, USA
    I always read and hear "estar siendo." I've never heard or read "estar estando" but that often seems like what it should be, for example:

    Ahora estás siendo muy inteligente.

    Ahora estás muy inteligente.

    Those both should basically mean the same thing, right? But why use the gerund of "ser" to describe a temporary thing? Is this just totally idiomatic?
  2. caballosgirl Senior Member

    la universidad
    English, USA

    I'm not sure, but i would think you'd use the gerund of ser because of the fact that it is a description. Ser is used when you're describing the characteristics of something. Intelligence is a characteristic, along with however else you describe yourself, nice, helpful, caring, beautiful, whatever.
    Now you are BEING very intelligent, it is a characteristic of yours now.

    saludos :)
  3. joelrosenblum Member

    English, USA
    No, you can be average most of your life and intelligent in one instance. Or the other way around. When I say "Now you are being stupid," that does not mean that you are a stupid person. It means you are *being* stupid in this very moment. From what I learned, the verb ser does not apply to temporary or changeable attributes. Maybe a native speaker could clear this up.
  4. caballosgirl Senior Member

    la universidad
    English, USA
    yes it would be a characteristic at that very moment... if someone asked you como eres? you would describe yourself. it's why they use estar in that make the ser less permanent. Yet it is still a characteristic. You don't say estoy inteligente do you? you say soy inteligente. Hope this helps.

    please native speakers, correct me if I'm wrong!!

  5. nelliot53

    nelliot53 Senior Member

    Puerto Rico
    Spanish [PR], English [US]
  6. joelrosenblum Member

    English, USA
    ok, maybe that's true that it's just because a verb can't be its own compliment, but not sure you can show an example of that in english, because "am" and "being" *are* the same verb in english. only spanish (or other romance languages that aren't english) has 2 separate verbs for "to be."
  7. nelliot53

    nelliot53 Senior Member

    Puerto Rico
    Spanish [PR], English [US]
    Correct! It doesn't happen in English, because in English only "one meaning" of the verb can become auxiliary of "the other" (meaning):

    I am being questioned. They are being questioned.

    She is being questioned. We are being questioned.

    They were being questioned. We were being questioned.

    I am being curious. He is being curious. et al...

    It all gravitates around the fact that the one verb "be" has two meanings in English, whereas in Spanish we must use two different verbs to that one English verb. I hope I am not confusing you...
  8. dassin

    dassin Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    "Estás siendo muy inteligente" sounds like Spanglish to me. "Hoy estás muy inteligente" is ok.

    "Estoy estando" notwithstanding its grammatical "correction" makes no sense... or perhaps too much sense! It sounds like heideggerian poetry or something... :p
  9. tillymarigold Senior Member

    Because "inteligente" normally takes "ser" and not "estar," so there is an instinct to keep using "ser" and conjugate it in the progressive, instead of using "estar". Even though, as Dassin said, "Hoy estás inteligente" is correct.

    I would actually use a different verb altogether. If you meant "now you're doing something intelligent" I would probably say "Ahora sí se está comportando de manera inteligente"; if you meant "now the way you've started thinking is intelligent," I would say "Ahora sí lo está pensando de manera inteligente."

    Something I learned from years of the ser/estar and por/para debates: if you can't decide which one is correct, the answer is usually "neither is the best answer."
  10. Nippur de Lagash Senior Member

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Argentina - Castellano
    Hay una canción folklórica argentina que empieza con un recitado que dice: "De estar estando me acuerdo de cuanta..." No creo que quien escribiera estos versos se preocupara mucho por la gramática, pero para él eso era correcto.
  11. nelliot53

    nelliot53 Senior Member

    Puerto Rico
    Spanish [PR], English [US]
    O la utilizó como licencia poética para llamar la atención del lector, ya que a éste de seguro le iba a chocar! (Como me choca a mí.)

    Muy buena observación, Nippur!
  12. Kräuter_Fee

    Kräuter_Fee Senior Member

    Portuguese&Spanish (native)/ (English&German - foreign)
    You don't see estar estando because estar already means estando.

    Ok let's see if I can explain that.
    "Estoy en la calle" - this means in this moment I am on the street
    "Estoy loca" - this means in this moment I am crazy
    "Estás bastante enfermo" - this means you are rather ill at this moment.

    Present continuous is used for expressing what is happening NOW. Since "estar" only refers to something that is happening, you don't need to put it in present continuous.
  13. Nippur de Lagash Senior Member

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Argentina - Castellano
    nelliot53: Realmente me dejaste pensando. Ahora no estoy muy seguro de si es una licencia poética o una expresión común en el noroeste argentino ¡hace cuarenta años que falto de mis pagos! (mejor no sigo pensando o me pongo a llorar).

    Saludos de Nippur.
  14. aleCcowaN Senior Member

    Castellano - Argentina
    Ahora estás siendo muy inteligente :tick:

    but "inteligente" means here reasonable, clever, cunning, smart; not "inteligent", and in "siendo", ser is used as "verbo sustantivo", and "ahora estás siendo" is clear enough to show that the guy's inteligence is temporary, thus playing clearly the role of "estar" and avoiding the use of it. The construction "estar + gerund" describe not permanent things and the meaning of "estar" is carried out through this construction itself, not by the gerund, being unnecesary to use "estando".

    If you say

    Ahora estás muy inteligente :tick:

    you mean the guy is being more clever, smart or showing more "mental" production, but the time is not so precise as "ahora estás" means "you're being these days/weeks/months"

    We have coloquial and poetical uses to "estar + estando", as the Argentinian country song

    "cuando de estar estando me acuerdo de cuánta... cuando vivía mi Tata, cuando mi Madre me sabía retar..."

    "estar estando" suggests here the idea of the speaker "hanged in no-time", in a sort of dream where past and present mix up.

    An Argentinian coloquialism:

    -¿Y? ¿Terminaste el trabajo? ¿Te quedó bien?
    ¡Y!... está quedando... (is roughly finished)

    -¿Está listo el trabajo? Estoy apurado y tengo que irme ¿Falta mucho?
    - Está estando (is about to be finished)

    As you can see, "estar estando" is generally incorrect and in some ocasions it carries some special meaning that may vary from one country to another. A delikatessen you probably no need to learn now.

    (You're always welcome to correct my English)
  15. Ivy29 Banned

    Usually a quality is PERMANENT ( verb SER), and transitory ( ESTAR)
    Ahora estás siendo muy inteligente or estás siendo inteligente, this could be a little IRONIC since the context might mean that you were not intelligent a moment or time before.

    the same in ENGLISH YOU ARE foolish is a permanent behaviour , and you are being foolish, it is a transitory behaviour, not permanent.
    <<Those both should basically mean the same thing, right? But why use the gerund of "ser" to describe a temporary thing? Is this just totally idiomatic?>>
    The gerund in Spanish means that the action is happening at that moment and transitory from ESTAR.
    GERUND in Spanish -IENDO-ANDO, In ENGLISH is mostly a noun, in Spanish the noun is the INFINITIVE = -AR-ER-IR.

  16. Nippur de Lagash Senior Member

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Argentina - Castellano
    Concuerdo totalmente con Alec.
  17. Stephen1993 New Member

    look im from Costa rica so i speak spanish. "estar estando" is like kind of a past remember ,but in the present. its kind of past and present mix.
    the writter used for tell a past experience talking in present, but its incorrect to used it. but the meaning is that. :idea:
    gracias por escuchar espero respuestas y corrijanme si estoy mal
  18. juandiego

    juandiego SE modera

    Granada. España
    Spanish from Spain
    Some points on the matter of estar siendo and especially on the estar/ser difference are discussed in this other thread.
  19. OHSU Senior Member

    Tucson, Arizona
    English - American
    Temporary vs. permanent is often a poor and unhelpful guideline when deciding between ser and estar. It frequently leads non-natives to generate gramatically incorrect or foreign-sounding utterances. It also leads them to mistakenly assume that grammatically correct constructions are "wrong".

    Unfortunately, we've all had this "rule" pounded into our heads. It seems like every couple of days someone gets on here and says, "I've read/heard something that came from a native source that breaks the temporary vs. permanent rule. I don't understand." They don't understand, because it's a lousy "rule" that has screwed up their understanding.

    Native speakers may point to temporary vs. permanent when explaining restrospectively why they used ser/estar, but that's not the situation we're in. We're not native speakers, and we don't intuitively feel it in our bones the way they do. We need prospective guidelines that are more accurate and precise, since we're generating the utterances from a different starting point than natives are.

    Notice that there are permanent conditions, such as:

    Estoy casado. = I am married.
    Está muerta. = She is dead.

    Even though these are permanent, they call for estar, because they're conditions (states of being) rather than attributes (inherent qualities).

    There are also temporary attributes, such as:

    Me maltratas porque soy pequeño, pero cuando sea mayor seré grande como mi papá. = You mistreat me because I'm small, but when I'm older I'll be big like my dad.

    Even though pequeño is temporary (and it is made very clear in the context of this sentence that the speaker expects the situation to change) pequeño calls for ser because the speaker perceives it to be an attribute.

    We could go on for pages and pages on ser/estar (and unfortunately for the members of this forum, I often do), but the point is that we all need to expand our understanding of ser/estar. I recommend finding a good graduate text on problems in English/Spanish grammar, such as Butt & Benjamin (1995) and reading the chapter on ser/estar. It starts thus:

    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  20. joelrosenblum Member

    English, USA
    Anyone want to try to explain this construction? I heard it spoken a lot in Mexico. Ser and estar seemed to be used interchangeably to my ear in regards to location. Perhaps it just depends on how people think of location--as an attribute or a condition?
  21. OHSU Senior Member

    Tucson, Arizona
    English - American
    When the object in question is a fixture, landmark, or feature of the landscape, there is a colloquial tendency to use ser in some dialects.

    ¿Dónde es la casa de tu amigo?
    Aquí era la plaza de Carretas. (Borges)
    Turku es en Finlandia, ¿no?

    Estar is considered "correct" or "standard" in these situations, but some people use ser. Undoubtedly, there are natives on this forum who will find the above examples odd-sounding and will prefer estar. Others will find certain constructions with ser-location acceptable.

    My impression (as a non-native) is that those who find ser-location acceptable interpret the location of a fixture, landmark, or feature of the landscape to be one of its attributes. To their way of thinking, the location partly defines the fixture, landmark, or feature. (This is, of course, the case when speaking of the location of an event, which also calls for ser.)

    The location of ambulatory, mobile, and transportable things (people, animals, cars, objects of most kinds) is not an inherent feature of those things; it is their state or condition. Thus, people feel it natural to use estar.

    Mamá está en la cocina.
    El carro/coche está en el garaje.
    Sabía que el viejo revólver estaba en la gaveta del escritorio.

    Once more, the subtleties of ser/estar go beyond simple rules ("ser is always for this, and estar is always for that"). Instead, native speakers have the power select different usages to communicate different nuances (as I never tire of arguing, one of the principle nuances with ser/estar is attribute/condition). But as one non-native speaking to another, I recommend always following standard rules of usage. We just don't feel it in our bones the way they do, and we're subject to making foreign-sounding boo-boos when we try to step outside the "rules".
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  22. juandiego

    juandiego SE modera

    Granada. España
    Spanish from Spain
    I was about to state that the only option for location is the verb estar when reading the OHSU's post above I had to think twice. However, in case of doubt estar is by the safe side.

    The three examples using ser above seem also right to me. The last one is the only, I think, needs a tweak: Turku es Finlandia, the "en" would require "estar".

    I think the second one would be much more widely acceptable if it were headed by Esto rather than Aquí. This latter asks much more for estar, though it may well be an answer of a previous question: ¿Dónde era la Plaza de Carretas?. It also may be a clever messing with words: substituting the more natural demonstrative for a placement adverb.
  23. OHSU Senior Member

    Tucson, Arizona
    English - American
    I agree! Estar for locations is standard Spanish grammar. It is not only the preferred option, but the only option offered in most grammar books.

    The examples I cited are ways in which native speakers of some dialects use ser with locations colloquially, in a way that deviates from accepted grammar. (I think one of the strengths of the attribute/condition guideline is that it not only accounts for accepted grammar, but dialectal deviations from the standard.)

    I strongly recommend that non-native speakers avoid this usage,and while I would not dare tell natives how to speak their own language, I feel safe in assuming that in formal settings natives would be advised to avoid it, too.
  24. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    I've heard native speakers say "la casa es" somewhere too, and wondered about it. ...

Share This Page