Use of "ser" and "estar" as it relates to marital status

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trieltor

New Member
English - American
I was doing some Spanish lessons and was wondering about the--seemingly--inconsistent use of "ser" and "estar" in relation to martial status. The following three sentences are the ones I´m referring to:

1) Ya no están solteros. Ahora están casados. (photo context: a couple just got married)
2) Después de veinticinco años todavía están casados. (photo context: an older couple smiling together)
3) Sus padres están casados pero él todavía es soltero. (photo context: a younger man together with his parents)

In sentence 1, estar is used for both single and married. In sentence 2, estar is used for married. In sentence 3, estar is use for married
but ser is used for single. I don´t understand the rationale and would appreciate some help.
 
  • Gamen

    Banned
    Spanish Argentina
    Hi trieltor and welcome to the forums.
    The difference between "ser" and "estar" must be analyzed regarding the time factor. "Ser" implies a permanent situation, while "estar" refers to a transitory state.
    Thus, we say "soy abogado" and not "estoy abogado" because it is supposed someone is a professional for an indefinite time.

    Regarding the adjectives "soltero" and "casado", you can think of it as something "transitory" (estoy casado, estoy soltero) or as something permanent because you don't forsee someone can change their marital status, at least, in the short run. In this last case, you would say of that person that "el/ella es soltero/a" or "es casado/a".

    So with "soltero" or "casado" the choice of "ser" or "estar" depends on how you perceive the situation in reference to time (as something transitory or permanent).

    If you view or consider the situation as transitory or temporary, you will use "estar", whereas if you see it as permanent, you will use the verb "ser".
    In your example, you could have said ".. pero él todavía está soltero", projecting that he will marry in the future and considering that the current state is just temporary.

    I hope I could make myself understood and it helps you!
     
    Last edited:

    trieltor

    New Member
    English - American
    Hi Gamen. The sentences were not written by me. They are from a Spanish lesson I was doing. So, I´m wondering why it is that the lesson I did presented "ser" and "estar" inconsistently in these sentences. I was already aware of the information you shared with me in your response. To go into more detail, my understanding is that, generally, "ser" is used more with descriptions, concerning origin, time, and permanent states. Estar is used more concerning location, condition/state, and temporary states. Given that, I still could not understand the rationale for the use of "ser" and "estar" in the sentences I put in my post---i.e. the ones from the lesson. If you, or anyone, can help me understand that I would be very grateful.
     

    echinocereus

    Senior Member
    English United States
    Hi, Trieltor, I'd like to welcome you to WR also. I would also like to add a few thoughts about the use of ser and estar.

    1) If the complement of “to be” is a noun or pronoun, the choice in Spanish is always ser. Examples: Juan es abogado. Or - profesor, turista, estudiante, un niño, un bebé, etc. And pronoun examples: Esta silla es mía hoy; mañana será tuya.

    Note: I know that many people like to use “temporary” and “permanent” in explanations of ser and estar use, but I tend to avoid those explanations because of the obvious confusion that arises when one uses “ser” with nouns that obviously do not refer to permanent states, as with the examples of turista, estudiante, niño and bebé. It is much simpler, I think, to remember that if the sentence has a form of to be and a predicate noun, the choice in Spanish is ser.

    2) The true challenge for us anglophones is to be plus an adjective. Then the usual distinction is that an adjective that represents a fundamental quality of a person or thing requires ser and an adjective that refers to a state or condition requires estar. The “fly in the ointment” of course is that sometimes the same adjective can represent something inherent or fundamental in one situation and a state or condition in another. Consider these examples, the usual ones and the more complicated ones:

    Juan es alto. Or – bajo, guapo, feo, inteligente, amable, simpático, etc.
    Juan está cansado. Or – contento, preocupado, enojado, tranquilo, etc.

    Mi café está caliente. (hot, a state because the liquid was heated)
    El sol es caliente. (hot, a fundamental quality of our sun)

    Returning to your examples of marital status, yes, it is possible to say “Juan está casado” and “Juan es casado.” I think of the first as “John is married,” reference to his marital status, and the second as “John is a married man;” note the predicate noun. The same subtlety would be present in the use of “soltero.”

    Note also that some adjectives that usually take ser will take estar to express a change from the usual, the latter often expressed in English by a “sense” verb. Juan es delgado. John is slender, a basic part of his physical self. Juan está delgado. John looks slender, has perhaps lost weight recently.

    Un saludo. :)











     

    Gamen

    Banned
    Spanish Argentina
    Hi, Trieltor, I'd like to welcome you to WR also. I would also like to add a few thoughts about the use of ser and estar.

    1) If the complement of “to be” is a noun or pronoun, the choice in Spanish is always ser. Examples: Juan es abogado. Or - profesor, turista, estudiante, un niño, un bebé, etc. And pronoun examples: Esta silla es mía hoy; mañana será tuya.

    Note: I know that many people like to use “temporary” and “permanent” in explanations of ser and estar use, but I tend to avoid those explanations because of the obvious confusion that arises when one uses “ser” with nouns that obviously do not refer to permanent states, as with the examples of turista, estudiante, niño and bebé. It is much simpler, I think, to remember that if the sentence has a form of to be and a predicate noun, the choice in Spanish is ser.
    Totally agree with your rule. It is a very good way to explain this. Maybe the dichothomy "permanent"/"transitory" only can be useful in certain cases, but in other ones it can cause perplexity because you might wonder: To be a student is a permanent situation or not?. It is something that has a certain duration, long for sure, but you won't be a student for ever, as well as you won't be a child for ever. Maybe what we call "permanent" here is something relatively extensive in time with regard to what we call "transitory", but certainly it is not everlasting. That dichotomy ends up being very simplistic and does not cover the totally of examples. I really liked all your explanation. It is very well systematized and very complete.
    2) The true challenge for us anglophones is to be plus an adjective. Then the usual distinction is that an adjective that represents a fundamental quality of a person or thing requires ser and an adjective that refers to a state or condition requires estar. The “fly in the ointment” of course is that sometimes the same adjective can represent something inherent or fundamental in one situation and a state or condition in another. Consider these examples, the usual ones and the more complicated ones:

    Juan es alto. Or – bajo, guapo, feo, inteligente, amable, simpático, etc.
    Juan está cansado. Or – contento, preocupado, enojado, tranquilo, etc.

    Mi café está caliente. (hot, a state because the liquid was heated)
    El sol es caliente. (hot, a fundamental quality of our sun)

    Returning to your examples of marital status, yes, it is possible to say “Juan está casado” and “Juan es casado.” I think of the first as “John is married,” reference to his marital status, and the second as “John is a married man;” note the predicate noun. The same subtlety would be present in the use of “soltero.”

    Note also that some adjectives that usually take ser will take estar to express a change from the usual, the latter often expressed in English by a “sense” verb. Juan es delgado. John is slender, a basic part of his physical self. Juan está delgado. John looks slender, has perhaps lost weight recently.

    Un saludo. :)











     
    Last edited:

    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    Perhaps it would help if you consider the possibility of change. Whenever this is uppermost in the mind of the speaker, the normal use is with estar.

    1) Ya no están solteros. Ahora están casados. (photo context: a couple just got married). There has been a change in their marital status.

    2) Después de veinticinco años todavía están casados. (photo context: an older couple smiling together) In this case, a possible change has not happened, for whatever reason. Perhaps many of their friends are divorced. But this has not happened to them.

    3) Sus padres están casados pero él todavía es soltero. (photo context: a younger man together with his parents). Soltero is closer to being a noun than the other words, i.e. casado, divorciado. This may explain the use of ser in this example. Or his parents may despair of seeing him married. If on the other hand a change in his status is viewed as possible, estar would certainly be reasonable in my view.

    Note this example in which ser is most unlikely, Está casado con alguien.
     

    echinocereus

    Senior Member
    English United States
    Buenos días, Gamen. Te agradezco tus palabras amables referentes a mi explicación ofrecida en este foro. Esperé ayudar un poco con algo muy complicado realmente para nosotros los anglófonos. Como has de saber, hay muchas otras cosas que se podrían discutir con respecto a este tema.

    Un placer. :)
     

    duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    Y para confundir más, no me gusta mucho la primera frase. Para mí es 'ya no son solteros, ahora están casados/son casados'. La soltería normalmente toma 'ser', tal vez para no parecer excesivamente ansioso por cambiar la situación. Bueno, no sé si es por eso, pero para mí, "Yo soy soltera" es más común.
     

    JennyTW

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    What Echinocereus says I totally agree with. The crux of the matter is that. The difference between estar and ser here is the difference between " he is married" and "he is a married man".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    The only thing I can add to Echinocereus's excellent explanation is the observation that ser and estar derive their meanings from the respective Latin verbs from which most of their forms derive. In particular, most of the forms of ser derive from the verb essere, the source of the English word essence; and most of the forms of estar derive from the verb stare, the source of the English words status and state.

    This can serve as a mnemonic. Ser concerns essence; estar concerns status or state.
     

    echinocereus

    Senior Member
    English United States
    Thank you, Jenny and Micafe, and bless your heart, Forero, for having added the information about ser/essere and estar/stare. The latter is indeed another good way to remember the basic difference between ser and estar. :)
     

    echinocereus

    Senior Member
    English United States
    Hola, Donbeto, No creo que la naturaleza humana cambie mucho de una cultura a otra y mi pregunta para ti es: ¿Es imposible o por lo menos muy difícil el divorcio en el Brasil? Un saludo. :)
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hola todos.
    The discussion is extremely interesting. I'm studying Spanish myself and the dychotomy ser/estar is one of the trickiest things for me too. This may seem stange as my mother tongue has both verbs - essere and stare - but unfortunately their use is different from the one we find in Spanish. In order to listen to something very similar I ought to be living in Naples, where the local dialect has been strongly influenced by the Spaniards in the xvii century... But I live in north of the country...
    One more little thing about the original Latin verbs: they were respectively ESSE and EXITARE.
    As an aside, someone may be interested in the fact that Neapolitans also differentiate between "avere" and "tenere" - from Latin HABERE and TENERE respectively. They use the two verbs the way they do in Castillian, but alas I ...don't.

    Saludos :)
    GS
     

    micafe

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Colombia
    A propósito, en portugués (a menos en Brazil), se suele decir 'ser casado', mientras en los paises españoles suelo decir 'estar casado'.
    We say "ser casado" in some contexts.

    If a woman is flirting with a married man we tell her "cuidado, ese hombre es casado".

    Well, at least in Colombia.. :p
     

    blasita

    Senior Member
    Spain. Left six years ago
    Hello.

    In Spain (at least in Madrid/in my barrio), no, we wouldn't use ser anyway, generally we'd say: estar casado. We could do it in a certain context, but it's not a common usage. There are regional differences (and a couple of threads on this).

    Cheers.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    I agree with Blasita. "Ser casado" is something I know from the grammar books but I actually never heard it. A friend of mine, who is from Andalucía, was really upset when I said that, according to the books, "ser casado" is also possible. So, it's not only in the neighbourhood of Madrid that you won't hear it.:)
     
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