If you have been studying Spanish, you probably know that the Spanish verbs, ser and estar, have a common translation in English: '"to be." With that in mind, let's start this lesson with a practical example. Your Spanish friend has just invited you to her wedding (boda) in Madrid, and you want to ask her (in Spanish, of course!) the following simple question: "Where is the wedding?" Which verb would you choose, ser or estar? Would you ask, Dónde está or Dónde es la boda? Let's find out.
Are you wondering about the meaning of dónde está in English? Generally speaking, we use the verb estar when we want to talk about the position or location of someone or something. Considering that dónde means "where," we use dónde está when we want to know where someone or something is located. Let's look at a couple of examples so that you can better understand the use of the verb estar when talking about position or location:
¿Sabes dónde está la biblioteca?
Do you know where the library is?
Caption 20, Español para principiantes - Hablando de ubicacionesPlay Caption
El pulverizador, ss... ss... está en el baño.
The spray, ss... ss... is in the bathroom.
Caption 63, Extr@: Extra en español - Ep. 3 - Sam aprende a ligarPlay Caption
Se llama Frigiliana, y está en la provincia de Málaga.
It's called Frigiliana, and it's in the province of Malaga.
Caption 6, Viajando con Fermín - Frigiliana, MálagaPlay Caption
According to the above logic, we could solve the question we posed at the beginning of this lesson by saying, ¿Dónde está la boda?, right? Well, not so fast!
When using dónde (where) for asking about the location of something, there is one case in which you should use the verb ser rather than estar: when asking about the location of an event. For that reason, the correct manner of asking the aforementioned question would be, ¿Dónde es la boda? Let's look at additional examples where the verb ser would be necessary:
¿Dónde es el funeral?
Where's the funeral?
Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 3Play Caption
¿Dónde es la fiesta?
Where is the party?
Caption 11, Raquel - Expresiones para un festival de música.Play Caption
There are, however, some cases in which you can use either verb, depending upon what you wish to express. For example, if you want to ask someone about the executive breakfast your company is organizing, you would say, ¿Dónde es el desayuno? In this case, you use the verb ser because you are talking about an event. However, if you are referring to the breakfast as the food you are going to eat, you would say, ¿Dónde está el desayuno? In this case, you use the verb estar because you are asking about the location of something that is not an event. Let's take a look:
-¿Dónde es el desayuno? -El desayuno es en el hotel.
-Where is the breakfast? -The breakfast is at the hotel.
-¿Dónde está el desayuno? -El desayuno está en la nevera.
-Where's breakfast? -Breakfast is in the fridge.
Finally, a good rule of thumb to decide when it would be necessary to use ¿Dónde es...? rather than ¿Dónde está? is to ask oneself whether the verb could be subsituted with tiene lugar (takes place), in which case the verb, ser, should be utilized. For example: Since ¿Dónde tiene lugar la fiesta? (Where is the party taking place) makes perfect sense, ¿Dónde es la fiesta? would be the correct manner of asking where the party is.
That's all for today. We hope you enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!