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Adjectives that use Ser and Estar

Some Spanish adjectives go with Estar, some go with Ser. And some go with both, but they change meanings based on the verb! Let’s discuss the adjectives listo, claro, alto, and others, and get lots of practice using them with both Ser and Estar.

Full Podcast Episode


Creo que ustedes están listos.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to learn a few new adjectives and continue practicing the verbs Creer and Pensar.

Most of the words that we learn today will actually be words that are very similar to words you already know. Let’s start with the word rápido, which we learned as an adverb to mean “fast” or “quickly”, describing how something is done. This word can also be used as an adjective to describe something as fast. This can vary in meaning from a person who can run quickly to a job that can be done quickly. Either way, it tends to be used along with the verb Ser. For example:

I didn’t know that the girls were so fast.

No sabía que las chicas eran tan rápidas.

So as you can see, here we changed the word from rápido to rápidas. When rápido is used as an adjective, it changes based on the gender and number of what it’s describing, although when it’s an adverb, it doesn’t change.

Our next word is igual, which we already learned as an adverb that can be used in a couple of different ways. But when it’s used as an adjective, what it means is “equal” or “the same”, specifically as a description. For example:

All of these houses are the same.

Todas estas casas son iguales.

Let’s practice using igual and rápido as adjectives.

My brother is very fast, he’s always there on time.

Mi hermano es muy rápido, siempre está ahí a tiempo.

The girl is the same, she has her mother’s face.

La chica es igual, tiene la cara de su madre.

The boys from the school are very fast.

Los chicos de la escuela son muy rápidos.

We think the sisters are the same.

Pensamos que las hermanas son iguales.

I thought she was faster than them.

Creí que ella era más rápida que ellos.

Next, let’s revisit the words alto and bajo, which we recently learned as adverbs to mean “loudly” and “quietly”. These words actually literally mean “high” and “low”. The reason that they’re used to refer to “loudly” and “quietly” refers to the idea of a noise’s volume as being “high” or “low”.

When these words are used as adjectives, however, they can mean something a bit different. Check out this example:

My brother is very tall.

Mi hermano es muy alto.

So when alto is used as an adjective with Ser, it means “tall”. Try this next one:

I didn’t know that the girls were so tall.

No sabía que las chicas eran tan altas.

But then when alto is used with Estar, it has an entirely different meaning, which is “high”. This makes sense because Ser is used for the identity or quality of something or someone, such as “tall”, but Estar tends to be used for the location of something or for how it’s doing. So check out how this sentence would change meanings:

His house is very tall.

Su casa es muy alta.

His house is very high.

Su casa está muy alta.

Most likely this would be used with more context, such as “high in the mountains”.

Next let’s look at the word bajo, which is exactly the opposite. When used with Ser, it means “short”, and when used with Estar, it means “low”, either in position or in volume. Let’s look at some simple examples.

He is shorter than my sister.

Él es más bajo que mi hermana.

I think the table is too low.

Creo que la mesa está demasiado baja.

Let’s practice alto and bajo, with both Ser and Estar.

She’s going to believe he’s very short when she sees him.

Ella va a creer que es muy bajo cuando lo vea.

I can’t believe it, do you see it’s very high?

No puedo creerlo, ¿ves que está muy alto?

The boy is very tall and the table is very low for him.

El chico es muy alto y la mesa está muy baja para él.

Next let’s revisit the word primero, which means “first” as an adverb. It also means “first” as an adjective, and it tends to be used right before a noun. So for example:

That was the first house I saw.

Esa fue la primera casa que vi.

So as you can see, primero turned into primera because of the feminine noun casa. Now, when primero occurs right before a masculine noun, it does the same thing that bueno does — it drops the O. For example:

He was the first guy that went there.

Él fue el primer chico que fue allí.

But you’ll use the full form, primero, when it’s used as an adjective without a noun right after it, typically because the noun is somewhere else in the sentence. This is also the case with bueno. Compare these two sentences:

The place was very good.

El lugar era muy bueno.

The boy was first.

El chico fue primero.

And then of course when it’s plural, you’ll use primeros or primeras. For example:

We were the two first people here.

Fuimos las dos primeras personas aquí.

Our next word is pasado, which means “past”, and as an adjective it tends to be used right after the noun. This is used a bit more often in Spanish than in English. This next example demonstrates why:

I didn’t do much last week.

No hice mucho la semana pasada.

So instead of “last week”, the Spanish is literally “the week past”. This is a very common construction. See if you can predict how it would happen in this next example:

I went there last year.

Fui allí el año pasado.

Let’s practice pasado and primero.

He took his first steps last week.

Dio sus primeros pasos la semana pasada.

He thinks we did that last year.

Cree que hicimos eso el año pasado.

We are thinking about whether he was her first husband.

Pensamos en si él fue su primer esposo.

In this next example, you’ll see the word en used in a that we wouldn’t expect in English: The first person to do something is often phrased in Spanish as “the first person at doing something”, or la primera persona en doing something. Try predicting the Spanish:

I was the first person to go there last month.

Fui la primera persona en ir ahí el mes pasado.

Next let’s look at the word lista. We learned this as a noun to mean “list”. But when it’s used as an adjective, it has nothing to do with a list, and it actually can mean two completely different things depending on whether it’s used with Ser or Estar.

When lista or listo is used with Estar, it means “ready”. Here are some examples:

My friend(f) is not ready yet.

Mi amiga no está lista todavía.

Yes, we’re ready. Let’s go!

Sí, estamos listos. ¡Vamos!

This adjective takes a completely different meaning when it’s used with Ser. Instead of “ready”, it means “clever” or “smart”. Here are some examples:

Yes, she’s very clever.

Sí, es muy lista.

You did it and nobody saw you? How clever!

¿Lo hiciste y nadie te vio? ¡Qué listo!

Let’s practice these uses of listo.

I always think about that girl; she is very clever.

Siempre pienso en esa chica; es muy lista.

He is going to be ready when they(f) are ready.

Él va a estar listo cuando ellas estén listas.

The mother thought about those very smart kids.

La madre pensaba en esos niños muy listos.

We have just two more words to learn. We already learned the adjective claro to mean “clear” when used with Estar. For example:

It’s clear that they won’t be ready on time.

Está claro que no estarán listos a tiempo.

When claro is used with Ser, it means something completely different. It actually refers to a visual quality of being “clear”, meaning either transparent or light in color. Here are some examples:

The water is very clear.

El agua es muy clara.

Did you see the girl with very light eyes?

¿Viste a la chica de ojos muy claros?

Our last word is justo. We already learned this as an adverb to mean “just” or “right”, as in “just before 2:00” or “right behind the door”. But when justo is used as an adjective, it means “fair” or “just”, as in “equitable”. For example:

I want the game to be fair.

Quiero que el juego sea justo.

Here’s a common sentence template that uses justo before a subjunctive phrase to express that something is or isn’t fair.

It’s not fair that they don’t leave me in peace.

No es justo que no me dejen en paz.

Let’s practice claro and justo.

My parents are not very fair.

Mis padres no son muy justos.

Have you seen the girl with the light eyes?

¿Has visto a la chica de ojos claros?

It’s not fair, you don’t think about what you do.

No es justo, no piensas en lo que haces.

The water of that place is very clear.

El agua de ese lugar es muy clara.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/118. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

I have always thought about those very fast guys.

Siempre he pensado en esos chicos muy rápidos.

She can’t see the book because it’s very high.

No puede ver el libro porque está muy alto.

Think about that if you want my help!

¡Piensa en eso si quieres mi ayuda!

Do you think they are going to be able to? She didn’t believe in them.

¿Crees que van a poder? Ella no creía en ellos.

I thought about being the first(f).

Pensé en ser la primera.

He thought about that last week and saw that it was too low.

Pensó en eso la semana pasada y vio que estaba muy bajo.

They think those things are very high.

Creen que esas cosas están muy altas.

The girls are the same, both have light eyes.

Las chicas son iguales, las dos tienen ojos claros.

They want me to think the kids are very fast.

Quieren que crea que los niños son muy rápidos.

We do it so that you don’t think about that.

Lo hacemos para que no pienses en eso.

I was thinking about the first people that came. They were fair.

Yo pensaba en las primeras personas que vinieron. Eran justas.

Are you going to think about what happened last year?

¿Vas a pensar en lo que pasó el año pasado?

I believed that the water was very clear in that country.

Creía que el agua era muy clara en ese país.

I’m thinking about what he thought yesterday.

Estoy pensando en lo que él pensó ayer.

We think that our father thinks that that is very low.

Creemos que nuestro padre cree que eso está muy bajo.

She doesn’t think about the shortest boy in the class.

Ella no piensa en el chico más bajo de la clase.

I’ll do it when he believes I'm ready(m).

Lo haré cuando él crea que estoy listo.

The sons are the same, tall like the father.

Los hijos son iguales, altos como el padre.

It’s not fair that he’s so tall and I so short.

No es justo que él sea tan alto y yo tan bajo.

Don’t think about that, please! I think you’re ready(m).

¡No pienses en eso, por favor! Yo creo que estás listo.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/118.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll learn some fun nouns, including the words for “coffee”, “telephone”, and “dog”.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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