Any time I teach a high school class, we always learn how to use the verb ser to describe people and their characteristics. Ser means “to be,” and you’ll see it in many forms in English in the present tense: am, is, are.
You can look at this chart below to see the different forms of ser in Spanish and how to say them:
And here is what they mean:
Each of these forms correspond to the different Spanish subject pronouns, which are pronounced as follows:
And here is what they mean:
Now that you know all these forms, you can say things like, “I am tall.” Or “He is blonde.” Or “They are nice.” All you need to learn is a few adjectives.
Here is a short list of useful adjectives:
Look at the subject pronouns above. How do you say he? That’s right, él! Now, how do you say he is? Yes, él es. Okay, look at the list of adjectives. How do you say tall? Well, there is alto and alta. Anytime an adjective (describing word) ends in an “O” or an “A”, you have to choose one of those endings. Use the “O” ending if you are describing a masculine noun and an “A” if you are describing a feminine noun. So for he is tall, you would choose alto, because he is masculine. So “He is tall” in Spanish is “Él es alto.” See how that works?
You are ready now to answer the questions:
¿Cómo es?* (KOH-moh ehs)
What is he/she like?
¿Cómo eres?* (KOH-moh EH-rehs)
What are you like?
In other words these questions ask, “Describe him or her,” or “Describe yourself.”
*Cómo means how. So literally these questions say, “How is he/she?” or “How are you?” But they are translated as “What is he/she like?” and “What are you like?”
Watch this fun video to see how it’s done!
I also try to cover the use of the verb ser in my Jump Into Spanish program for families. (Want to join us? Check out the program here.)
When teaching the verb ser to younger kids, I don’t explain all the grammar-y stuff above. We write little booklets that help us see the verbs used in context.
Print out Booklet 02 from our Term 3A unit to see what I mean. It has pronunciation guides and translations at the beginning, but if you have any questions on how to fill it out, don’t hesitate to ask me!
Print more than one of different pages depending on what your family looks like. (For example you may want to print two sister pages, or three brother pages, or two mom pages.)
Then have your kids illustrate a picture on each page and fill in the lines with them.
Now they can read a story describing their family and hear the verb ser used in context over and over again!
For help with more describing words go to www.wordreference.com to look up the words you need.
Do you want more materials like this sent to your inbox each week? Consider joining Jump Into Spanish!
Share your completed books with me on social media by using the hashtag #fortheloveofspanish!
My kiddos and I rarely get to the library between naptimes and eating times, but last week we made it and I am so excited to share what we found! Taking a two-year-old and a ten-month-old to the library has to be short and sweet, so often times I find myself pushing the stroller through the aisles at a trotting speed, to keep up with my two-year-old, quickly grabbing books off the shelves that catch my eye. Usually that means we are in for a surprise when we get home, because who knows what Mommy snagged!
Los tamales de Ana proved to be a great bilingual grab. Our local library does not have a specific section with bilingual books, so anytime I find one I like to check it out. Bilingual books are a great way to learn Spanish and new vocabulary–you can read the English story and become familiar with it, then read the Spanish part using the context to understand and learn new words and phrases.
In the story, a young girl named Ana, makes tamales for Christmas and dreams of what each new year will bring as she grows older and gets to have more responsibilities making the traditional Mexican dish. Zepeda writes the imaginative text in the future tense, and Ward’s vibrant illustrations make those imaginations come to life. So not only do you get to practice your Spanish future tense (or learn it for the first time!), you also get to dream with the character Ana about the wonderful traditions involved with making tamales.
Try this tamale recipe from Rick Bayless–one of my favorite chefs that has as his mission teaching people what authentic Mexican cuisine means. Then go check out Los tamales de Ana, grab your 501 Spanish Verbs book, and talk about what you are going to do in the future! See below for a little guide on the Spanish Future Tense.
Spanish Future Tense
If you want to speak in Spanish about things that will happen in the future, just learn a few verbs and then add these endings depending on the subject.Remember the subject pronouns are:
tú (you, informal)
él, ella (he, she)
Usted (you, formal)
ellos, ellas (they)
Ustedes (you all)
So, for example if you want to say “I will eat tamales,” you would use the verb comer (to eat) and put it with the yo (I) ending é.
Did you know there are two ways to say “to be” in Spanish? That’s right. The verb ser means “to be,” and the verb estar means “to be” also. In English, we use the verb “to be” when we say, “I am,” “She is,” “They are,” “We are,” and so on.
In Spanish the verb ser (to be) is conjugated like this: soy (I am) eres (you are–informal) es (he/she is; you are–formal) somos (we are) son (they are; you all are)
The verb estar (to be) is conjugated like this: estoy (I am)
estás (you are–informal)
está (he/she is; you are–formal)
estamos (we are)
están (they are; you all are)
So how do you know when to use which, you ask? Simple. See below. These high schoolers can teach you all the rules of ser vs. estar.
¿Dónde está el baño? (Where is the bathroom?)
Feelings: Estoy cansada. (I am tired.) ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
Reactions: ¡La sopa está buena! (The soup is good!)
Present Progressive: estar + gerund (-ing form) Estoy caminando. (I am walking.) Ella está hablando. (She is talking.)
Characteristics/Personality: Ella es bonita. (She is pretty)
Material: La mesa es madera. (The table is wooden.)
Nationality: Ella is norteamericana. (She is North American)
Origin: Yo soy de Missouri. (I am from Missouri.)
Profession: Somos enfermeras. (We are nurses.)
Time & Dates: Son las tres. (It’s 3 o’clock.) Hoy es jueves. (Today is Thursday.)
Where something takes place: La fiesta es en la casa de Mario. (The party is at Mario’s house.)
Possession: El libro es de la profesora. (The book is the professor’s.)
Relationship: Antonio es el hermano de Julia. (Anthony is Julia’s brother.)