Learning to conjugate the Spanish verb ‘ser’ with real example sentences from the news.

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The verb ‘ser,’ which means ‘to be,’ is the most common verb in Spanish. However, like many high-frequency verbs, it is irregular, so its different forms must be memorized. This is typically done with worksheets, flashcards, and conjugation tables, but rote memorization is an inefficient way to learn. There is a better way: study real, relevant example sentences written by native speakers for other native speakers in recent news articles. These examples make the verb’s forms come alive.

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About these sentences and files

To help beginning Spanish learners practice ser, I used WordBrewery’s automatic sentence list creator to find fifty real example sentences from Spanish-language news sources that use ser in different forms. Most or all of these sentences are from the beginner-level Spanish sentences in WordBrewery’s database; this means, among other things, that they contain only the 500 most important high-frequency Spanish words as well as proper nouns. They are also short and easy to memorize.

  • Sentence list PDF: WordBrewery recently introduced a new feature allowing learners to print their sentence lists. Here is a free PDF of the sentences paired with two rough translations per sentence; these are generally machine translations from Google Translate and Microsoft Translator, though some may be added by WordBrewery translators or contributed by users. Before relying on full-sentence translations, however, I strongly recommend that you try to puzzle through the meaning of the sentence on your own. Also, machine translation is a very imperfect science; be sure to focus on the native sentence rather than the translations, and do not see the translations as “correct answers.”
  • Sentence list audio: WordBrewery is currently testing and preparing to release a feature for learners to automatically generate audio files for any sentence list so they can practice their sentences while walking or driving. Here is a free audio file in which the sentences are read aloud. More than 90% of our Spanish sentences have been recorded by professional voice actors from Venezuela; the remaining sentences are read by one of several text-to-speech voices from IBM Watson.
  • Sentence list CSV export: WordBrewery users can export their word and sentence lists as CSV (comma-separated value) text files. These can be opened by a spreadsheet program or text editor, and they can be imported into flashcard programs such as Anki, Memrise, Quizlet, and others. Here is a CSV file with the sentences in this list.
  • Reviewing your lists with WordBrewery’s Explore Mode: You can also study sentences from your lists with WordBrewery’s Explore Mode by changing the default “Study by Levels” setting to “Study by Lists.” Here’s an example of what this looks like with one of the sentences in this list:

You can use WordBrewery's "study from lists" option in Explore Mode to review the sentences in your sentence lists. You can use WordBrewery’s “study from lists” option in Explore Mode to review the sentences in your sentence lists.

A selection of the example sentences with notes and conjugation tables

See the PDF printout for the full list as well as translations. Before relying on full-sentence translations, however, I strongly recommend that you try to puzzle through the meaning of the sentence on your own.

Note: Because WordBrewery’s automatic list feature selected these sentences at random from our database of beginning Spanish sentences, not every form of the verb ser is represented. However, not all of a verb’s forms are equally likely to appear in native-language speech or texts. This important fact is disguised by daunting, comprehensive conjugation tables, and it should provide learners with some reassurance about the task of mastering a particular verb.

‘Ser’ as an infinitive

‘Ser’ often appears in the infinitive form ser, which literally means “to be.” The infinitive form is sometimes called the lemma, base form, or dictionary form because you would find the verbs es (he/she/it is), soy (I am), fuiste (you were), etc. under ser in a dictionary.

Puede ser más de uno.

  • poder = “to be able to”; puede = “he/she/it can”
  • mas de = “more than”

Y esto no puede ser.

  • esto = “this.” Easily confused with eso (“that”).

Eso es lo que no puede ser.

  • lo que = “that which” or “what”

Pero no pudo ser.

  • pudo ser = “could be.” Pudo is the third-person preterite form of poder.

Tenía que ser Cristiano.

  • Grammar note: The verb “tener” means “to have,” but the phrase “tener que” means “to have to” or “to need to.” tenía que ser = “he/she/it had to be”

Conjugating ‘ser’ in the present tense:

"What if soy milk is just milk introducing itself in Spanish?"

(yo) soy I am
(tú) eres you are (familiar)
(él, ella, usted) es he/she/it is; you are (formal)
(nosotros) somos we are
(ustedes, ellos, ellas) son you (plural) are; they are

Es lo que tienen que hacer.

  • Grammar note: tienen que hacer = “they need to do”

Y es que lo es.

Somos lo que somos.

No es uno más.

  • Useful phrase: uno más = “one more.” If you want another beer, however, you’ll need to ask for una más because una cerveza is feminine.

Los Juegos no lo son todo.

  • jugar: “to play”; juego: “game”
  • Meaning note: Note that “Juegos” (Games) is capitalized, so it is a proper noun and does not mean “games” in general. It likely refers to the Olympic Games. If you were to see this sentence on WordBrewery, you could check by clicking the newspaper icon beneath the sentence to see it in its original context.

A César lo que es de César.

La Cultura es de todos y para todos.

Eso es lo que haremos.

  • eso = “that”
  • haber = “to have”; haremos = “we will have” (future tense)

Esto no es el Apocalipsis.

  • El Apocalipsis is a cognate, meaning that it is very similar to an English word. Can you guess what it means?

Con lo que tengo y con lo que soy.

  • con = “with”
  • tener = “to have”; tengo = “I have”

La de Darren Osborne es la otra.

  • Meaning note: We don’t know from this sentence alone what “la” is referring to; all we konw is that it is a feminine noun belonging to Darren Osborne. When you are studying sentences on WordBrewery, this is a situation in which you might want to click the newspaper icon beneath the sentence to get more context from the original article where the sentence was found. You can also try searching Google for the exact sentence in quotation marks to find its source; I just did so to identify the source of this sentence. It comes from an article in the Spanish newspaper El País about Islamophobia in the United Kingdom following the recent terrorist attack on a mosque in Finsbury Park.

¿Es como lo que hace BlackBerry?

  • Meaning note: The verb “hacer” can mean either “to do” or “to make”; “to do” is the more common meaning. “lo que hace X” = “what X does” or “what X makes.”

¡No somos el Bayern!

  • Meaning note: “Bayern” refers to FC Bayern Munich, a successful German soccer team based in Munich.

Es lo que tengo que hacer.

  • tener que hacer: to have to do

Son los que están en la Comisión.

Es la Copa Davis.

  • Meaning note: According to Wikipedia, the Davis Cup is the “premier international team event in men’s tennis.”

Es todo lo que tengo que decirles.

  • decir = “to say”; decirles = “to say to them”

Es lo que había.

  • haber: “to have”; había: “I/he/she/it had” (imperfect form); había una vez: “once upon a time”

Es lo que hay.

  • haber: “to have”; hay: “There is/there are”

Conjugating ‘ser’ in the imperfect tense:

(yo) era I was
(tú) eres you were (familiar)
(él, ella, usted) era he/she/it was; you were
(nosotros) eramos we were
(ustedes, ellos, ellas) they were  

Pero eso no era todo.

  • Grammar note: The imperfect form is used to refer to continuous or ongoing events in the past; by contrast, the preterite form is used to refer to discrete past events that happened at a specific time.
  • no era = “he/she/it was not”

Conjugating ‘ser’ in the preterite tense:

(yo) fui I was
(tú) fuiste you were (familiar)
(él, ella, usted) fue he/she/it was; you were
(nosotros) fuimos we were
(ustedes, ellos, ellas) fueron you (plural) were; they were

No, no fue eso.

  • no fue = “he/she/it was not.”

Pero eso no fue todo.

Conjugating ‘ser’ in the present perfect tense:

(yo) he sido I have been
(tú) has sido you have been (familiar)
(él, ella, usted) ha sido he/she/it has been; you have been
(nosotros) hemos sido we have been
(ustedes, ellos, ellas) han sido you (plural) have been; they have been

No lo han sido.

  • haber = “to have”; han = “they have”
  • Meaning note: This phrase could mean “it wasn’t them” or “they were not.”

Eso ha sido el Brexit.

Conjugating ‘ser’ in the future tense:

(yo) sea I will be
(tú) serás you will be (familiar)
(él, ella, usted) será he/she/it will be; you will be
(nosotros) seremos we will be
(ustedes, ellos, ellas) serán you (plural) will be; they will be

Será a las 19.30 en el Aquarium.

Es que lo seré.

Conjugating ‘ser’ in the present subjunctive tense:

(que yo) sea that I may be
(que tú) seas that you may be (familiar)
(que él, ella, usted) sea that he/she/it may be; that you may be
(que nosotros) seamos that we may be
(que ustedes, ellos, ellas) sean that you (plural) may be; that they may be

Pero puede que no lo sea.

  • Grammar note: The subjunctive is often used to express a conjecture, something the speaker is not certain about. poder que = “it is possible that”; puede que no lo sea = “perhaps it is not.”

Additional reading: