More Uses for 'Estar'

Common Verb Doesn't Always Mean 'To Be'

Street in Cordoba, Spain.
Estaremos en Córdoba, España. (We'll be staying in Córdoba, Spain.). Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images.

Estar is the Spanish verb best known as one of the two forms of "to be." However, it also has meanings or translations other than "to be."

The key to remembering how to use estar is that even when translated with forms of the verb "be," it isn't used to indicate that something is the equivalent of something. Instead, its meaning relates to an action or status (estar is related to the word "status") of some sort.

Meanings for Estar by Itself Other Than 'To Be'

Here are some of the ways that the meaning of estar can change without being part of a phrase:

To indicate staying in a position or location. This meaning is especially common with the reflexive form, estarse:

  • Estaré dos días. (I'll stay two days.)
  • Estamos en casa por no tener clases. (We are staying at home because we don't have classes.)
  • Puedes estarte aquí. (You can stay here.)

To indicate that something or someone is ready or available.

  • Aún no está la cena. (The dinner still isn't ready.)
  • Estará a las dos. (It will be ready at 2.)
  • Susana no está. (Susana isn't in. Alternatively, Susana isn't available.)

As a tag question estamos can be a way of asking others if they agree with you, especially when talking about planned activities.

  • Salimos a las tres de la mañana ¿estamos? We're leaving at 3 a.m., right?
  • Todos vamos al parque ¿estamos? (We're all going to the park, agreed?)

Meanings of Estar in Phrases

Estar can take on a range of meanings when followed by a preposition. Here's a sampling:

estar a (especially when used in the first-person plural) — to be (a certain date or temperature) — Hoy estamos a 25 de diciembre. (Today is December 25.) Estábamos al lunes. (It was Monday.) Estamos a treinta grados. (It's 30 degrees.)

estar con — various translations, depending on the phrase used — La niña está con el sarampión. (The girl has measles.) Yo estaba con depresión. (I was depressed.) Flora estaba con una bata blanca. (Flora was wearing a white housecoat.)

estar de, estar como — to work as or to act as (especially when on a temporary basis) — Pedro está de pintor. Pedro está como pintor. (Pedro is working as a painter.)

estar de — various translations, depending on the phrase used — No estoy de acuerdo. (I don't agree.) Ana está de vuelta. (Ana is back home.) Están de charla. (They're chatting.) Estamos de vacaciones. (We're on vacation.)

estar en que — to be based on, to lie in, to be with (when used as in the example given) — El problema está en que el color. (The problem is with (or is based on, or lies in) the color.)

estar en que — to be of the opinion of, to believe — Estoy en que hay perros que no pueden ser entrenados. (I believe there are some dogs that can't be trained.)

estar para — to be about to, to be ready for, to be in the mood for — Estamos para salir. (We're about to leave.) No estoy para amor. (I'm not in the mood for love.)

estar por — to be in favor of — Estaba por la liberación de los esclavos. (He was in favor of freedom for the slaves.)

estar por — to be about to, to be on the verge of (This usage is more common in Latin America.) — Estamos por ganar. (We're about to win.)