Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you have not seen each other for a while and are talking about what you look like now. At some point, the other person says to you something like: "tell me, do you mean to say that I look old?".
In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿quieres decir que estoy viejo?
On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿quiere (usted) decir que estoy viejo?
The question is an invitation for you to say how the other person looks to you. When your reply includes a reference to the person you are talking to, you DO need to be concerned about the level of formality you want to use in your reply.
Basically, you have two levels of formality to choose from. Your choice will be determined by how well you know the person in question and how much familiarity, affinity and closeness you want to convey along with your opinion. Basically, you have two options:
1. Less Formal.- The person you are giving your opinion to is someone with whom you DO have a very good rapport (could be a relative, a friend or a colleague). Along with your opinion, you also want to signal familiarity, affinity or closeness. In such cases, you could choose to be more familiar/ less formal and give instructions such as:
- No, no creo que estés para nada viejo* (no, I don't think you look old at all);
- Sí, creo que estás un poco más viejo de lo que te imaginaba* (yes, I think you look a bit older than I imagined you to be);
2. More Formal.- The person you are giving your opinion to is someone with whom you DON'T have a very good rapport (could be a relative, a friend or a colleague). Along with your opinion, you also want to signal that you want to keep your distance. In such cases, you would choose to be less familiar/ more formal and give instructions such as:
- No, no creo que esté (usted) para nada viejo* (no, I don't think you look old at all);
- Sí, creo que está (usted) un poco más viejo de lo que le imaginaba* (yes, I think you look a bit older than I imagined you to be);
Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿quieres decir que estoy viejo?
*Please see grammar below
The English verb to be has two corresponding verbs in Spanish, “ser” and “estar”. When to use “ser” and when to use “estar” often causes some confusion amongst learners of Spanish. This post deals with the uses of “estar”. A separate series of blog posts is dedicated to the uses of “ser”.
In this post we look at a number of situations in which “estar” is commonly used. “Estar” is commonly used in the following cases:
1. Continuous Form- Verbs
In Spanish, we commonly use “estar” followed by a gerund to form continuous verb tenses. Continuous verb tenses are used to indicate ongoing actions, which often take place at the time of speaking, but may also take place at other times also.
Although the most common use of the continuous form of verb tenses is found in the present and imperfect tenses, its use is not restricted to those tenses. In fact, the continuous form may be used with all verb tenses. Some examples of the use of “estar” in continuous forms of verbs with a variety of tenses are:
- Estoy escribiendo una carta (I am writing a letter);
- Estabas mirando la tele, ¿verdad? (you were watching TV, weren't you?);
- Pedro estara llegando por la mañana temprano (Pedro will be arriving early in the morning);
- Hemos estado cenando en un restaurate muy típico (we have been dining in a very traditional restaurant);
- Estuvisteis viajando por los Estados Unidos (you people have been travelling in the USA);
- Espero que John y Ann lo estén pasando muy bien (I hope that John and Ann are having a good time);
In Spanish, we commonly use “estar”to indicate 'temporary' states* for someone or something. Some examples of the use of “estar” in expressions of this type are:
- Estoy muy contento (I am very happy- male speaking);
- Estás triste, ¿verdad? (you are feeling sad, aren't you?);
- Pedro está muy cansado (Pedro is very tired);
- María está muy cansada (María is very tired);
- Estamos muy relajados (we are very relaxed);
- Estáis todos bien, ¿no? (are you all well, aren't you?);
- John y Ann están sanos y salvos (John and Ann are safe and sound);
*NB Please note that in this case, 'temporary' does not necessarily mean 'short'. In here, 'temporary' refers to states which have a beginning, an end or both. An example of the 'longer term' meaning of 'temporary' are expressions such as, “está muerto” (he is dead)- which is a pretty long-lasting state to be in!
In Spanish, we commonly use “estar” to indicate a 'temporary' appearance of someone or something. When used in this way, “estar” may indicate a change in the normal appearance of someone or something. Some examples of the use of “estar” in expressions of this type are:
- Estás muy guapo (you are looking really handsome);
- ¡Qué viejo estaba Pedro! (how old was Pedro looking);
- ¡Estáis jovencísimos! (you are looking very young!);
- John y Ann están muy altos (John and Ann are very tall);
In Spanish, we commonly use “estar” to indicate the whereabouts of someone or something. That is, “estar” is commonly used to indicate where someone or something is.
- The whereabouts of someone or something may typically be indicated using expressions involving “estar”, with:
- Preposition “en” and the names of places;
- Adverbs of place, such as: “aquí” (here), “ahí” (there), “allí” (there), etc.;
- Expressions such as: “cerca de” (near to), “lejos de” (far from), “al lado de” (beside) , “enfrente de” (facing), and similar, followed by the names of places;
- The following are some examples of the use of “estar” to indicate where people or things are:
- Estoy en mi despacho (I am in my office);
- Estás en casa, ¿verdad, John? (you are at home, aren't you, John?);
- Pedro está aquí (Pedro is here);
- Estábamos cerca de Nueva York (we were near New York);
- Estáis al lado del cine, ¿no? (you people are next door to the cinema, aren't you?);
- Las tiendas están en el centro (the shops are downtown/ in the centre of town);
Now you should practise the uses of “estar” with some examples of your own.
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