‘Es’ vs ‘esta’

Quick answer – the Spanish words ‘es’ and ‘está’ both translate to ‘is’ in English, but they’re actually the third person singular conjugations (i.e., he, she, or it) of two different verbs in Spanish.

Yes, I’m talking about the verbs ‘ser’ and ‘estar’!

And ‘esta’?

Well, we use ‘esta’ (without an accent) for a very different purpose; it actually translates to ‘this’ or ‘this one’ and it can function as both an adjective and a pronoun (but is NEVER a verb like it’s accent bearing twin!).

By the end of this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about these three words. Trust me when I say that you’re going to be a bone fide ‘es’ vs ‘esta’ expert!

Let’s get to it!

When to use ‘es

As I mentioned previously, ‘es’ is the third person singular of the verb ‘ser’ in the PRESENT TENSE.

We therefore normally use ‘es’ to identify people, things or relationships (as we would the verb ‘ser’).

For example –

Él es Mike, el hermano de Nancy.

He is Mike, Nancy’s brother.

Esta es mi casa.

This is my house.

We can also use it to describe the appearance or characteristics of a person, thing, or concept.

For example –

Jane es rubia.

Jane is blonde.

Es muy platicona.

He’s very chatty.

Es una buena idea.

It’s a good idea.

Es’ is also commonly used when talking about possession, origin, or the material that something is made of.

For example –

Este es mi carro.

This is my car.

Jacques es francés.

Jacques is French.

El bolígrafo es de metal.

The pen is made of metal.

And guess what? We even use ‘es’ to tell the time.

For example –

Es la una y cuarto. (1:15)

It’s a quarter past one.

Finally, we use ‘es’ when we ask the price of something and when using impersonal expressions (i.e., sentences without a specific subject).

For example –

¿Cuánto es?

How much is it?

Es la hora de comer.

Its time to eat.

Es una lástima que se haya lastimado.

It’s a shame that he’s hurt himself.

When to use ‘esta

Here comes the tricky one …

First, you need to be super careful not to muddle up ‘esta’ with ‘está’.

That tiny line (i.e., the acute accent) on the letter ‘a’ can change everything!

Esta’ as a demonstrative adjective

The word ‘esta’ – without the accent – is a feminine demonstrative adjective.

And what’s a demonstrative adjective?

Well, they´re generally used to indicate the position of something (for example – Me gusta ESTA foto = I like this photo) OR to talk about a specific moment in time (for example – ESTA ultima hora = This last hour).

Here are a few more examples –

Esta planta es más bonita que aquella.

This plant is prettier than that one.

Esta canción me recuerda mi infancia.

This song reminds me of my childhood.

En esta ciudad hay mucha contaminación.

In this city there’s a lot of pollution.

Esta’ as a demonstrative pronoun

We can also use ‘esta’ as a feminine demonstrative pronoun.

As a pronoun, ‘esta’ is used to replace a noun that has already been mentioned.

Like ‘esta’ the adjective, ‘esta’ the pronoun is also used to talk about something that is close to the speaker.

It *normally* translates to ‘this one’ in English.

¡Ojo! (Watch out!) – when referring to a person, ‘esta’ can be quite derogatory.

For example –

¿Esta quién se cree que es?

Who does she think she is?

Probé todas las tortas, pero esta es la mejor.

I’ve tried every cake, but this one is the best.

Está’ as a conjugation of the verb ‘estar

The word ‘está’ – with an accent – is the verb ‘estar’ conjugated in the third person singular (‘él’, ‘ella’ and ‘usted’) of the present tense.

It’s used to express a more temporary state or situation, such as an emotion, location, or condition.

If you want to know more about the situations in which ‘esta’ is written with an accent, be sure to check out my comprehensive (even if I do say so myself!) guide on the topic.

For example –

El agua está tibia.

The water is warm.

El día está soleado, así que voy a salir.

The day is sunny, so I’ll go out.

¿Dónde está el cine?

Where’s the cinema?

‘Está’ is also used when forming the present continuous tense –

Lucas está hablando con Max.

Lucas is talking to Max.

Final thoughts

Now you know how to distinguish between ‘es’, ‘esta’ and ‘está’ (yippee!).

Just remember to keep practicing until you feel certain that you’ve fully understood all their different meanings / uses.

Practice makes perfect after all!

Oh, and make sure to mosey on down to our article on por siempre‘ vs ‘para siempre if you’re in the mood for unraveling some more commonly confused Spanish words!

Es’ vs ‘esta’ (vs ‘está’) Quiz

1. Afuera ___________ lloviendo. Lleva mi paraguas.

2. Rupert ___________ mi mejor amigo.

3. ___________ situación es muy difícil para mí.

4. ¿Dónde ___________ tu casa? Ya me cansé de caminar.

5. Cierra la boca, ¿No ves que Carlos ___________ hablando?

6. Ramón ___________ un excelente profesional con mucha experiencia.

7. ___________ no es la manera en que me gusta trabajar.

8. El amor ___________ cruel, pero no sentirlo resulta imperdonable.

9. ___________ mujer no sabe lo que dice. Bebió demasiado vino.

10. Dumbledore ___________ un gran hombre y un gran mago.

Answers –

1. Está

2. Es

3. Esta

4. Está

5. Está

6. Es

7. Esta

8. Es

9. Esta

10. Es

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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