States of Being: Estar

Use estar to help you communicate how you are at a certain point in time. This verb is also used to express the location of someone or something, and the (frequently temporary) states of being. Here are some examples:

A senhora está bem? (How are you, ma'am?)

Estou bem, obrigada. (I am well, thanks.)

Onde você está? (Where are you?)

Estou na escola. (I am at school.)

For the other forms of estar, refer to the following table.

TRACK 32

The Verb Estar in the Present Tense

Portuguese

English

eu estou

I am

você está

you are

ele/ela está

he/she/it is

nós estamos

we are

vocês estão

you (plural) are

eles/elas estão

they are

It is important to pronounce the forms estou (eu form) and estão (vocês/eles form) very clearly, since they might sound similar at the beginning. Practice these two forms out loud, especially the first person singular, which you might have to use more frequently.

When Brazilians are talking, they will very often cut off the first syllable, es —, of these verb forms. Be prepared to hear tou, tá, tamo(s), tão in spoken conversation. You might even start saying them too!

Many grammars of Portuguese use the distinction “temporary” states for estar versus “permanent” aspects for ser. This is a good general rule, but it does not tell the whole story. For example, you should say Eu sou estudante (I am a student) even though this is (hopefully!) not a permanent condition, but rather just a way of identifying yourself. You should also say O gato está morto (The cat is dead), even though being dead is not temporary, but rather a change in physical state.

As clearly put by the well-known Portuguese linguist Mário Perini, ser introduces qualities that are seen as inherent to the subject, while estar captures qualities that are seen as transitory or otherwise nonessential. More information about other uses of estar — specifically, its use with physical states — is presented in the next section.

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