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Old 10th August 2010, 04:56 PM   #1
Stephen
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Default Ser and estar with adjectives

With ser and estar I'm not too bad I've been learning Spanish for years so I should have a grasp of it. One recurring difficulty I have though is when to use ser or estar with adjectives. Books talk about using estar when the action is finished but I don't find that helps much.

20 de las 50 personas que estaban perdidas han sido localizadas.

Could anyone say why in the above example it's estaban perdidas but han sido localizadas?
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Old 10th August 2010, 07:02 PM   #2
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With ser and estar I'm not too bad I've been learning Spanish for years so I should have a grasp of it. One recurring difficulty I have though is when to use ser or estar with adjectives. Books talk about using estar when the action is finished but I don't find that helps much.

20 de las 50 personas que estaban perdidas han sido localizadas.

Could anyone say why in the above example it's estaban perdidas but han sido localizadas?
This is probably explained better by somebody who learns Spanish than by natives, as it is natural for us, but I will have a go.

In general:
for situations that are not permanent one uses the verb "estar"

for situations that are permanent or have become permanent one uses "ser"

In your example:

Las personas estaban perdidas (but hopefully will not be forever!)

Las personas han sido encontradas (and will remain to be so)

Other examples:

Soy mujer (permanent)
soy española (permanent)
estoy en España (that can change at any time, at present, I am in Spain)
estoy triste (hopefully only for a short while)

Sometimes you can use both, but has a different meaning:

Eres muy guapo (always!)
Estás muy guapo (you are not very handsome, but today you have made an effort and look good, for example if you have just had your hair cut, unfortunately it is not permanent)

Last edited by Pippa; 11th August 2010 at 01:02 AM. Reason: Basic English grammar!!!
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Old 10th August 2010, 08:27 PM   #3
Stephen
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I go through phases with ser and estar. Sometimes I seem quite confident with it mainly just I think from doing plenty of reading and getting a bit of a gut feeling for it. Then when I make some ser/estar mistakes when practicing speaking Spanish the confidence goes and it's back to the books for the rules to try to drum it in. It never ends.
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Old 10th August 2010, 10:20 PM   #4
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I go through phases with ser and estar. Sometimes I seem quite confident with it mainly just I think from doing plenty of reading and getting a bit of a gut feeling for it. Then when I make some ser/estar mistakes when practicing speaking Spanish the confidence goes and it's back to the books for the rules to try to drum it in. It never ends.

You are not alone.
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Old 10th August 2010, 10:51 PM   #5
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20 de las 50 personas que estaban perdidas han sido localizadas.

Could anyone say why in the above example it's estaban perdidas but han sido localizadas?
In this particular example, the past participles "perdidas" and "localizadas" do not function as adjectives, but rather as one of the elements that compose a verbal periphrasis (the union of at least two verbs, one of them being auxiliary).

In the first case, the periphrastic construction is composed by the auxiliary verb "estar" plus the past participle of the main verb and it indicates a result with perfective aspect.

In the second case, the periphrastic construction is the passive voice of the verb. In these cases, there is no room for doubt, as the passive voice always uses the verb "ser" as auxiliary + the past participle of the main verb.

Regards
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Old 10th August 2010, 11:28 PM   #6
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I.......when I make some ser/estar mistakes when practicing speaking Spanish the confidence goes ........
There's nothing wrong with going back to the books in search of perfection, but don't let your mistakes affect your confidence. As they would say in Cowboy movies, "Just get back on the horse". So long as you are communicating you're using language for what it was designed.
Often, when I try to clarify something with a Spanish speaker the response I get is that most Spaniards don't speak perfect Spanish either, in the same way that no one speaks their language precisely correctly.
I like to think that my Spanish improves, but there are days when I seem not to be able to string a simple sentence together.
Remember, when a non-English speaker mangles your language, you rearrange the grammar and syntax mentally and understand. When you mangle Spanish, the listener is understanding you. If you screw up with ser and estar, por and para and any other of the many confusions with which Spanish, and any other language, contains, you will be either understood or asked to clarify. But don't lose your confidence.
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Old 11th August 2010, 12:53 AM   #7
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There's nothing wrong with going back to the books in search of perfection, but don't let your mistakes affect your confidence. As they would say in Cowboy movies, "Just get back on the horse". So long as you are communicating you're using language for what it was designed.
Often, when I try to clarify something with a Spanish speaker the response I get is that most Spaniards don't speak perfect Spanish either, in the same way that no one speaks their language precisely correctly.
I like to think that my Spanish improves, but there are days when I seem not to be able to string a simple sentence together.
Remember, when a non-English speaker mangles your language, you rearrange the grammar and syntax mentally and understand. When you mangle Spanish, the listener is understanding you. If you screw up with ser and estar, por and para and any other of the many confusions with which Spanish, and any other language, contains, you will be either understood or asked to clarify. But don't lose your confidence.
what he said!
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Old 11th August 2010, 01:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Urgellenk View Post
In this particular example, the past participles "perdidas" and "localizadas" do not function as adjectives, but rather as one of the elements that compose a verbal periphrasis (the union of at least two verbs, one of them being auxiliary).

In the first case, the periphrastic construction is composed by the auxiliary verb "estar" plus the past participle of the main verb and it indicates a result with perfective aspect.

In the second case, the periphrastic construction is the passive voice of the verb. In these cases, there is no room for doubt, as the passive voice always uses the verb "ser" as auxiliary + the past participle of the main verb.

Regards
Yup, it's one of those mistakes that could go into Ben's list.

We tend to learn to use "estar" when describing a temporary state.

e.g. estoy atrapado (I'm trapped)

So when we want to say "I have been trapped" the temptation is to say:

he estado atrapado

This is correct if you want to say that some time in the near past you have been trapped. But if you want to say "I have been trapped" in the passive sense that "something has caused me to be trapped right now" then you have to say:

he sido atrapado

I think the confusion comes about partly because in English the same phrase ("I have been trapped") can mean different things, and you need more context to work out what the speaker is talking about.
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Old 11th August 2010, 05:54 PM   #9
Stephen
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The estar for temporary states I really do know but then I read in the books that a sentence with estar +adjective "tells the result of an action". And ser "tells how an action is done." So with sentences needing one of either ser + adjective or estar + adjective I'm analysing all the time, "Mmm is the phrase I want telling the result of an action or describing how an action is done." This doesn't help.

I think some of the trouble is I've too many grammar books all with their own way of solving the problem. If I'd stuck to one good one I might have mastered it. I've fallen for clicking too often on BUY on Amazon.
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Old 11th August 2010, 06:58 PM   #10
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The estar for temporary states I really do know but then I read in the books that a sentence with estar +adjective "tells the result of an action". And ser "tells how an action is done." ...
I think Urgellenk described it correctly, but his/her terminology might be quite hard to follow.

I guess you could think of it like "ser+adjective" tells what happened to the subject, i.e. what action was performed on the subject, but it might be best to think "estar+adjective" as only being concerned with the state of the subject, regardless of what action was formed.

e.g. hoy he estado contento - I've been happy today

The above describes that I have been "in the state of being happy". Whatever action (if any) caused me to be happy is irrelevant.

However if you said "hoy he sido contento" then it would translate as something like "today I have been happied" . It doesn't work. The problem is that some adjectives (like "happy") don't necessarily have associated actions - there's a grammatical term for them, but I've forgotten it.
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Old 12th August 2010, 02:16 AM   #11
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I don't know; the permanent vs. temporary yardstick only gets you so far. Death is pretty permanent,but you still use estar with it -- go figure!

Also, as Pippa noted, you can use ser or estar in the same phrase and both might be correct; you're just implying something different. Estoy nerviosa -- I'm nervous right now. Soy nerviosa -- I'm basically high-strung all the time.

Getting back to your original question:

Quote:
20 de las 50 personas que estaban perdidas han sido localizadas.

Could anyone say why in the above example it's estaban perdidas but han sido localizadas?
Here's what I've worked out in my head over time (I have the same problem as you -- and if my logic is wrong, please tell me!):

You use estar when the subject (personas) in question is also the one doing the main verb action (perder). They got themselves lost, in other words.

You use ser when the subject (personas) has someone else doing the verb to them (localizar) -- they didn't locate themselves, someone else did it for them.

Someone once explained this (rightly, but I didn't get it at the time) as using estar when the action is active and ser when it's passive -- so these people actively got themselves lost, but had to passively wait for someone to come find them -- to be found.
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Old 12th August 2010, 12:09 PM   #12
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I'll see if I can apply your estar for active, ser for passive Uriel.
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Old 14th August 2010, 06:40 AM   #13
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The problem here is the confusion between on the one hand ser + past participle and estar + past participle, and on the other hand, ser + adjective and estar+adjective. The permanent/temporary state rule applies only to the latter pair, the adjectival ones.

If it's past participles, estar + participle means to be left in a state or condition(which may very well be permanent), whereas ser+ participle corresponds to our passive voice

that's why we typically say "está muerto" instead of "es muerto"

Other examples that occur to me:
estaba destrozado (he/it was a mess, a wreck, etc.i.e, he had had a hard night or some such)
fue destrozado (he/it was destroyed/wrecked) (one has an image of active destruction)

los ratones fueron engullidos por las culebras (the mice were swallowed by snakes--one has an image of the mice actively being eaten)

los ratones estaban engullidos i.e, none were in an uneaten state

The main thing is, even though participles function as adjectives all the time, when you see estar or ser + participle you should be thinking of them as participles, not adjectives.
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Old 15th August 2010, 02:19 PM   #14
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I don't know if it's because I'm dopey when it comes to learning Spanish but I don't think I recognise a word is a past participle unless it's one that comes with haber. How do I tell when a word isn't an adjective but rather a pp not involving haber?
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Old 15th August 2010, 06:38 PM   #15
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Mostly by how it translates. The same problem exists in English, where we also use past participles as adjectives.

I have burnt the toast. -- burnt is the past participle, being used as part of the verb.

I'm not eating any burnt toast. -- burnt is now the adjective describing the toast.

We can even confuse the issue further in English,by using the same word for the past tense sometimes -- I accidentally burnt the house down, while trying to make toast. Luckily, they don't seem to do that in Spanish. (Although the minute I say that, someone will trot out an example, I'm sure!)
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Old 15th August 2010, 09:13 PM   #16
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The example you gave me Uriel is easy even for me. I have burnt the toast. That sentence uses the auxilliary verb to have, the English equivalent of haber.

I think my difficulty is spotting in Spanish pps used like adjectives.
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Old 15th August 2010, 10:38 PM   #17
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The example you gave me Uriel is easy even for me. I have burnt the toast. That sentence uses the auxilliary verb to have, the English equivalent of haber.

I think my difficulty is spotting in Spanish pps used like adjectives.
Sometimes we use it with forms of "to be", too, though, like "I am sunburnt" or "her arm was badly burnt" or "he was badly burnt by the chemicals". Some of those seem a little like a toss-up to me -- they both seem to describe the subject as an adjective, while at the same time describing an action by another force on the subject. Because you can say "I was burnt" and it can be describing you, the same way as "I was tired". Yet add a little more information -- "I was tired out by the long run", and it's the run doing something to you, as a verb.

This kind of stuff keep linguistics departments funded, I'm sure.
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Old 15th August 2010, 11:43 PM   #18
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..."I was tired out by the long run", and it's the run doing something to you, as a verb.
I disagree. The "long run" is a noun. In the same way you would say I was cut by the knife. "Cut" is the verb, "Knife" in the object used to "do" the verb.
The long run tired you out. "Run" is not a verb here.
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Old 16th August 2010, 12:01 AM   #19
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I disagree. The "long run" is a noun. In the same way you would say I was cut by the knife. "Cut" is the verb, "Knife" in the object used to "do" the verb.
The long run tired you out. "Run" is not a verb here.
I think you misunderstood me. Of course "run" is a noun. The verb is "tire". You (pronoun) were tired (verb) by the run (noun again). Because run is a noun performing an action on you, tired switches to functioning as a verb instead of an adjective.

Last edited by Uriel; 16th August 2010 at 12:04 AM.
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Old 21st August 2010, 06:11 AM   #20
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La semana pasada fui “estar de Rodriguez”.

o

La semana pasada estuve “estar de Rodriguez”.

En estas circunstancias es bueno la primera?


“estar de Rodriguez” es una referencia en el documento y así no puedo cambiarlo sin creando confusión.

Gracias Nigel
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