Using the Spanish ‘Estar’ With Prepositions

‘Estar con’ and estar con’ not always translated verbatim to English

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The verb estar is frequently followed by a preposition in ways that are uncommon with the English equivalent "to be." Here are some of the common combinations:

Estar a

Estar a doesn't have a consistent meaning, although it is used in a variety of contexts. It can often convey the idea of being at or in a situation. As in the first four examples, it is often used this way in the first-personal plural or "we" form.

  • Estámos a tres días del inicio de los juegos. (We are three days away from the games. Literally, we are at three days from the start of the games.)
  • Estamos a 14 de febrero. (Today is Feb. 14. Literally, we are at Feb. 14.)
  • Estamos a 30 grados. (It is 30 degrees. Literally, we are at 30 degrees.)
  • Mi hermana está a oscuras. (My sister is ignorant of what's going on. Somewhat literally, my sister is in the dark.)

Estar con

In addition to indicating who someone is with, estar con can be used to indicate illnesses, what a person is wearing, and other characteristics:

  • Tengo un amiga que está con la influenza porcina. (I have a friend who has swine flu.)
  • Hay días que estoy con dolor constante. (There are days I'm in constant pain.)
  • Estaba con pantalones cortos y una playera blanca. (He was wearing short pants and a white T-shirt.)
  • Cuando estamos con prisa, es fácil pasar por alto algunas prácticas de seguridad. (When we're in a hurry, it's easy to overlook some safety measures.)
  • La carne estaba con mal olor. (The meat smelled bad.)
  • Estamos con duda sobre estos medicamentos. (We are in doubt about these medications.)

Estar de

Temporary situations including roles, employment, and emotions are often expressed using estar de. Some examples:

  • La red social más popular está de cumpleaños. (The most popular social network is having a birthday.)
  • No te pongas serio. Estaba de broma. (Don't take it seriously. He was joking.)
  • Estoy de acuerdo contigo. (I agree with you.)
  • Mi hermano está de chofer. (My brother is working as a driver.)
  • Estamos de vacaciones. (We're on vacation.)
  • ¿Qué tipos de vestidos están de moda? (What types of clothing are in style?)
  • Los Smith están de aniversario. (It's the Smiths' anniversary.)
  • Los conductores están de huelga. (The drivers are on strike.)
  • El jefe está de un humor muy feo. (The boss is in a very ugly mood.)

Estar en

Estar en is often used much like "to be in."

  • Está en buena condición la carretera. (The road is in good condition.)
  • Las autoridades locales estaban en conflicto con los operadores de turismo. (The local authorities were in conflict with the tourism operators.)
  • Esta página web está en construcción. (This web page is under construction.)

Estar por

When followed by a noun, estar por typically means to be in favor of someone or something.

  • Estoy por la inmigración legal. (I am for legal immigration.)
  • No es verdad que todos estén por la democracia. (It isn't true that everyone is for democracy.)

When estar por is followed by an infinitive, it can mean that the the infinitive's action has yet to occur. Often, estar por followed by an infinitive suggests that the action will occur soon.

  • Estoy por salir de viaje desde Buenos Aires a Asunción. (I am about to leave on a trip from Buenos Aires to Asunción.)
  • Raquel estaba por comer cuando se dio cuenta de que todos la estaban mirando. (Raquel was about to eat when she noticed that everyone was looking at her.)
  • ¡Estamos por comenzar nuevas aventuras! (We're on the verge of beginning new adventures!)

Estar sin

Estar sin is used much like estar con but with the opposite meaning. (Of course, it can also mean "to be without"):

  • De momento estoy sin dolor. (At the moment I'm not in pain.)
  • Unas 8.000 personas estaban sin hogar en la ciudad. (There are some 8,000 homeless people in the city.)
  • Estoy sin dinero y sin amigos. (I am penniless and friendless.)

Estar sobre

Although estar sobre is usually used literally to indicate being above a person or thing, it can also be used figuratively in a way similar to the English "stay on top of," meaning to closely watch or supervise.

  • En el trabajo no es necesario estar sobre los millennials. (On the job, it isn't necessary to keep a close eye on millennials.)
  • Todo el tiempo estoy sobre mis hijos para que estudien. (I'm always hounding my children so that they study.)