To Be or not To Be………… in Spanish


By Immanuel Giel – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A great photograph taken in Stratford-upon-Avon, of a sculpture of Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s most well-known characters.

“To BE or not To BE, that is the point!” one of Shakespeare’s most well-known phrases. Good Ol’ Bill, had no idea it would become famous world-wide and he certainly did not imagine he could have been referring to Spanish grammar when he coined that phrase.

The awful truth of the matter is there are TWO ways of saying “TO BE” in Spanish. We have seen one previously  on my post,  Patterns : SER…and we have seen how to say “I am” = Soy. In Patterns 2 we saw : “You are” = Eres. and in A bit of Gossip we saw: He is = Es  .

Now another verb which renders “TO BE” is called ESTAR and to say “I am” using this new verb is ESTOY.

In summary: In Spanish, the verb “To Be” can be SER or  ESTAR.

So many of my students have battled with concept, just as I did for months before I realised the difference between the two.


“To Be” = SER           and                                 “To Be” = ESTAR

So “I am” = SOY        and                                   “I am” = ESTOY

Wait a minute! What’s going on? They’re the same in English but different in Spanish.

To explain again in a different way: For many students of Spanish, this simple little verb, To Be, can be very frustrating.   In previous posts, we learned TO BE was SER and have seen how to translate “I am ” in Spanish :  “SOY”. However the other verb with the same meaning in English, at least, is TO BEESTAR Spanish which means exactly the same:  “I am” =   “ESTOY”

So there are times when “I am” can be ESTOY . We need some examples to show when to use  “ESTOY” to convey “I AM”.

 I am tired              Estoy cansada 

I am angry             Estoy enfadada

 I am calm                Estoy tranquila  

  I am married          Estoy casada

 I am divorced          Estoy divorciada 

I am interested       Estoy interesada 

 I am bored               Estoy aburrida

 I am busy               Estoy ocupada

I am ill                      Estoy enferma 

Please note I am using the FEMININE form of the adjective at the moment. This means I am assuming in these cases that the speaker is female. More on masculine adjectives later. They will just have to be patient.


ESTOY ENFERMA (I AM ILL ) by Leo Van Aken , 1851

Can you see a pattern emerging? But still there is the question about WHEN you would use Soy, or when to use Estoy ?

But take a close look at the words, the adjectives which are being used with ESTOY

Tired, Angry, Calm, Married, Divorced , Interested, Bored, Busy, Ill.

These all describes states that are just temporary. In fact, you could put NOW or AHORA beside them to show it’s just a temporary state. 

You are not ALWAYS tired, or calm, or married (!) or divorced (!), interested, bored, busy or ill. This would be when ESTOY is used, as you can see in the examples above. 

The adjectives used in the previous posts with SOY were of a different type: English, Spanish, Intelligent, Silly, Short, Tall, Hard-working, Lazy, Funny, Nice, a Woman, a Man. These are adjectives which describe inherent chatacterstics of a person. What they are like, ALWAYS. 



Confused yet?

(NOW)       I AM = ESTOY 

Can you see the new pattern emerging. ?

Is this really confusing?

I would be extremely interested in knowing if this article was useful. I would like to know if I have been able to clarify, in some way, the confusion that often ensues from this grammatical point.  I would really appreciate it  if you would let me know how I could improve the explanation to make it clearer for my students.

More next time…





If not now, when?


There’s always something,  isn’t there?

Some people are really good at making excuses.  If it’s not a big holiday coming up, like now perhaps in December, it’s maybe too much stress at work. If it’s not a great series on your favourite network, then it’s because you have to finish clearing out the garage..

There are a myriad of excuses to be coined for putting off seriously getting down to language learning. Some can  never seem to find a good time to get started with a big project like this.

Perhaps someone like that is reading this, right now.

And we have to admit, learning a language is a big project. It’s a major project. It’s a project that can take a long time. It’s probably a project that really doesn’t have a specific end.

Even in our own first language, there will always be something new to learn. We hear new words all the time in our own first language. Words that we have to reach to the dictionary for.  Think how much more so in a new language.

When you begin to learn a new language, you have to be ready to go in for the long haul. It won’t be fast, it won’t be without its ups and downs. It won’t be effortless. It will be hard. But it can be fun too.

The key is not to find the effortless way, but to find the fun and interesting ways, ways to keep you engaged and involved over time, over a lengthy period of time. You need to add variety to your learning. Try different styles, different approaches, different teachers, different courses, different books, different people to talk to and learn with.

If not, the whole process will become stale and you will lose interest. Once you lose interest, the magic has gone. The initial motivation and enthusiasm wane and it will take an awful lot to regain momentum.

Keep in mind the reasons why you want to learn another language and follow this…

                                        ACTION PLAN

  • Make a list of 5 reasons why you want to learn another language
  • Identify which part of the language you most need/want : Listening , Speaking, Reading, or Writing. (Or any  combination)
  • Search for the first/second/third/ etc. most appropriate method to begin your learning.
  • Take action required to learn according to method.
  • Read your list of 5 reasons why you want to learn another language.
  • Rinse and repeat!!!!!


So if not now, then  when?


More next time…




NaNo No Alco

A short update on my NaNoWriMo experience.

I am excited to say I have just hit 42,000 out of the target for 50,000 words of my writing for the month of November. I have 4 days left to reach the 50,000 word goal.

It’s a great challenge and I’m always up for doing crazy things, personal goals, etc. so this was just up my street. I did a little bit of thinking (not too much because I only had 3 hours before the challenge began) about how best I would achieve the goal. The plan was 30 days of more or less dedicated writing in order to create a first draft of a story I have had in my head for years, but just never got round to writing.

My first thought, in terms of preparation, was to get in a few bottles of wine to help me get through the long nights I was envisaging in front of the computer screen.


This is how I envisaged my writing challenge

And then an awful thought struck me. Was this really going to be the most efficient way to do this challenge properly? Would I really be able to keep focused and write beautifully with this little ‘friend’ beside me? Would I be doing justice to my writing, writing the best way I possibly could?

I suppose we all know the real answer to that.

So reluctantly I added on an even more challenging challenge to my challenge (!) and decided to cut alcohol out for the month of November.



This is what’s  really happening!

I found it difficult for the first two weeks, but now I’m so glad I made that decision.  I have only 6,000 words left to write in order to ‘win’ the  NaNoWriMo. Soon I will have a first draft of a story that I have wanted to write for some time, but was far too lazy to do it.

I admit there has been a significant overload of chocolate as you can see from the photo of my work station, but then I’m no saint!

I have  proven to myself that I don’t depend on that little glass of red wine to get me through.

I’m better than that.



A bit of gossip?

mark_twain1883_p487_-_smoke_and_gossipWe all like a bit of gossip, or at least some of us do.

In grammatical terms, this could be expressed as, in this case: ‘the third person singular’. But that sounds very dry, for something as juicy as a ‘bit of gossip’. It’s that part of a conversation when you are talking about somebody else, and what they are like.

Don’t deny it. We have all done it sometime. Go on…admit it!  Take a look back at Patterns 1  and Patterns 2 to jog your memory a little.

Below you can see how we are conjugating the verb (Going into the verb, changing it according to who is speaking, or who we are speaking about) . In this case we are looking at the verb SER = TO BE

Es inglesa                    She’s English

Es española                She’s Spanish

Es inteligente              She’s intelligent

Es tonta                       She’s silly

Es baja                        She’s short

Es alta                         She’s  tall

Es trabajadora             She’s hard-working

Es perezosa                 She’s lazy

Es graciosa                  She’s funny

Es simpática                She’s nice

Es una mujer               She’s a woman


Can you see a pattern emerging?

Notice that the examples I’m using are female friendly at the moment.

Usually language teacher and books teach the male form first, and the female form of verbs and adjectives often are presented as add-ons. I want to change this approach. I hope no males are offended by this.

Repeat, repeat, repeat and memorise the pattern.

More next time…..

NaNo, NaNo, NaNo


Lovely, lovely books

                                             By Warburg [CC BY-SA 3.0]  WikiComms

I’m a reader; I love books and I love reading. I have been harbouring a little idea that I would love to read about, a really interesting type of story that requires quite a bit of research to do it properly, but it just wasn’t to be found. Then I  thought maybe I could write it myself! But I’m not a writer, I’m just a reader and I should just stay put and let all those other people write for me.

A bit selfish perhaps? Lazy, you think?

I stumbled upon the National Novel Writing Month challenge literally the night before it was due to start. The challenge starts every November 1st.

The National Novel Writing Month, often referred to as NaNoWriMo, is a yearly challenge to all writers to write a novel, or several novels, short stories, or in fact anything, in the month of November. In effect, it is a 30 day challenge. The challenge is to reach a word count of 50,000 words in 30 days or less.  You ‘win’ the challenge by writing 50,000 words,which you must copy and paste into their web-site to validate the word count.

The basic idea behind the challenge, is to write as much as possible on a daily basis without editing or even researching much. The editing and revising process is not part of the goal. A writer will most likely finish up with a first draft of a novel, and will then work on that in the future some time. The premise is to just write and sort it out later. At least the basic bones will be written. Information at 

I signed up for it on November 1st.,as soon as I found out about it and I am absolutely sold on it! There are some detractors concerned about the quality of the writing produced or the ‘stress levels’ that this type of challenge can generate. I agree that is possible, but for many (including me) it has been a great experience so far!


just starting…

The web-site is well organised and very helpful,promoting communication and conversation about writing at all times. I have found it so much fun, so far. Although I may not meet the 30 day ‘deadline’, I am learning so much about writing and sharing my writing queries with  so many other fellow writers. It is really being an enriching experience for me….

It’s  this “community feel” that has really exhilarated me;  the forums, being able to ask advice and get answers immediately on my specifics queries,  and I am so much enjoying this process!

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of young aspiring writers who are using the site, organising write-ins, word sprints, connecting up, conversing about writing, plot structure, character arcs etc. I think there must be one or two future authors in the making, without a doubt. In 20 years time, some famous authors will remember their first NaNo days no doubt. I hope I’m still around to see that.

There are all sorts of writers using this ‘boost’ to writing. Many are new like me, many more are fully fledged writers, who are there on-line during this month, just to help out newbies struggling like me! I am so grateful for this constant support.

The main thing is that I’m learning so much about the writing process that I  have taken me years to glean (and there’s not enough time left for me to take it slow!) and that I’m getting my novel out of my head and finally onto….the screen(?)

What does it sound like to you? Too much stress?

More next time…

Repeat, repeat, repeat…


…aaand repeat!

Oh, how boring! Can there be anything more boring than repetition, in a new digital world where we’re constantly bombarded with new images, new photos,  new videos, news feeds, new tweets, etc.?

But as in the illustration above, would you ever expect a dancer to learn a new dance or a new move and present the dance on stage without numerous repetitions of said move?  Never.

Rehearsals are an enormous part of any act. We accept that to perform any skill well, practice and repetition is required. And lots. Language learning requires the same amount of practice and repetition as any other skill.

For many people, once you have read/heard/written/spoken a new word in a language you are attempting to learn as an adult, you may feel that you’ve got it. It’s in. It’s yours. Do you feel this sometimes?

Yet, only a few hours, even minutes after, how many times have you forgotten that same word or item? How many times have you given up at that point and thought “I’m no good at languages.”, or  “I just can’t retain anything.”, or “My memory is so bad!” Do you sometimes find yourself saying that?

Repetition is core to language learning. The brain needs to become as familiar as possible with a new language. As language learners we need to trick our clever brain into believing this ‘new way’ of speaking, listening, reading, writing is quite normal for it.

Apart from the few mortals who possess a special gift for language learning, probably apparent in their own native language too,  then the rest of us will need a little more effort in order to absorb the new information.

I have learnt my languages without any special gift. I was the shy one at school, sitting quietly at the back of class poring over vocabulary lists trying to commit them to memory in silence, too embarrassed to let anyone hear me repeating random words in Spanish or French.

If only the teacher would have suggested finding a private place where no one could hear and repeating the words out loud. It would have been much easier, and faster. We live and learn.

I have learned over time that with a little repetition, (or a lot of repetition) I have been able to retain much more vocabulary and many more grammatical patterns in my mind.


You can give yourself a boost to your learning and reap the rewards fast.

Repeat as much  you can, whatever and wherever you can.

More next time…





Conversation patterns



What’s probably one of the main results you are expecting from all your hard effort put into learn a second language?

You are probably hoping you might be able to use your language skills to get what you want or need when on holiday , for example. You might want to be able to converse a little with the locals and have a more interesting experience.

You may need to speak another language with foreigners in your own area. There are many reasons why you would want to speak another language. But one thing is for sure. You probably really want to speak it!

You can’t get anywhere without conversation. It’s a two-way thing!

Let’s have a look at some more patterns or at least putting our two previous patterns together.

In a previous post Patterns, we looked how to describe yourself, with some alluring adjectives!

SOY ( like SOY in SOYA) = I am…..

Then in a later post we saw how to tell someone what they are like with those same attractive adjectives!

Eres = you are….Patterns (2)

The fantastic thing aboout Spanish is that if you need to ask a question, all you need to do is put a ‘question voice’ on and, Hey Presto!, you have saved yourself a load of grammar and got yourself an interesting interrogative…

The only little thing you have to do in WRITTEN Spanish,and I know this seem crazy, is to put an upside-down question mark to show it’s a question at the beginning. This is just  so you can put your question voice on straight away if you are reading!

Important note; YES =

Now you can make a conversation….if you are talking to a female then;

¿Eres inglesa?                              Si, Soy inglesa.

(Are you English?)                      (Yes, I’m English)


¿Eres española?                               Sí, soy española.

(Are you Spanish?)                               (Yes, I’m Spanish)



¿Eres inteligente?                                 Sí, soy inteligente.

( Are you intelligent?)                      (Yes, I’m intelligent)


¿Eres tonta?                                           Sí, soy tonta.

(Are you silly? )                               (Yes, I am silly)[just a silly example]


¿Eres baja?                                               Sí, soy baja

(Are you short?)                                      (Yes, I’m short)


¿Eres alta?                                                          Sí, soy alta.

(Are you  tall?)                                                   (Yes, I´m tall)


¿Eres perezosa?                                                  Sí, soy perezosa.

(Are you lazy?)                                               (Yes, I’m lazy)


¿Eres graciosa?                                          Sí, soy graciosa.

(Are you funny?)                              (Yes, I’m funny)


¿Eres simpática?                                             Sí, soy simpática

(Are you nice?)                                              (Yes, I’m nice)

These adjectives will change slightly when talking to a male…but we will leave that pattern till next time! Be patient…..

Can you see a pattern emerging?

More next time…