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I've seen "Está hecho de ..." used to mean "It's made of ...".

Why is the verb estar and not ser? Isn't this an adjective that's permanent and not going to change?

I can understand phrases like "la puerta está abierta" because that's a temporary thing, but what something's made of isn't going to change. This seems especially odd because I know that "Es de ..." can also mean "It's made of ..."

So, why is estar used in this phrase? Is there a rule that I should know for when to use estar with an adjective and when to use ser?

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hecho is not an adjective, it's a verb. If it was an adjective, it could use es depending on the case, e.g. La puerta es verde, La puerta está rota. –  Petruza Jan 10 '12 at 2:29
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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think a possible explanation (and how I understand it) is "Está hecho de..." refers to the object being "manufactured with" so the verb refers to the fact that the object was manufactured and "es de madera" refers to the permanent fact that the table is made of wood. Actually you can't say (or is not exactly correct) "el árbol está hecho de madera" "the tree is made of wood" because a tree is not manufacturated. I repeat that this is a personal opinion as a native speaker. Please forgive me for my bad english.

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This is a good answer stated in good English Laura. –  hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 12:00
    
Thanks! Writing is my weak point in English, I'm always unsure if what I write is correct. –  Laura Nov 16 '11 at 12:21
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Ser and estar can both be translated as "to be." But its use depends from the context:

La manzana está verde.
(condition: verde = unripe)

La manzana es verde.
(essential characteristic: verde = color green)

It's perfectly valid to say

La mesa está hecha de madera

and to say

La mesa es de madera

Both are the same. But, suppose we need to talk about the condition of the table, then we use:

La mesa es de madera y está deteriorada.

Wich mean the table is made of wood and is damaged.

Ser is used with:

Elements pertinent to your or others' identity

Physical description, personality and character, nationality, race, gender, profession, origen, What things are made of

Things which "Take Place" or "Occur" in Time:

Dates, days, seasons, time, events, concerts, parties

Possession

Estar is used with:

Emotional, physical & mental states of (our bodies') being:

Feelings/moods/emotions, physical conditions or appearances, civil state (married, single, divorced, dead) Placement State of Being:

Location of things and people (but not events) Motion State of Being

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This doesn't explain the "is made of" case the question is about. –  Flimzy Nov 16 '11 at 4:06
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Right, and I would consider what something's made of to be an essential characteristic, not a condition. Can you give any details about this specific case? –  Nathan Greenstein Nov 16 '11 at 4:07
    
Response to edit: I understand that both "está hecho de" and "es de" are valid, but I'm wondering about why you say "está hecho" instead of "es hecho". Can you clarify about that in particular? –  Nathan Greenstein Nov 16 '11 at 4:12
    
@NathanGreenstein see the new edit. –  Randolf R-F Nov 16 '11 at 4:20
    
Okay, thanks for the new info. This still doesn't answer my question though. You say, "ser is used with... what things are made of". So, why can you say "estar hecho de"? Again, I'm asking about that particular case, not the fundamental usage of ser and estar. –  Nathan Greenstein Nov 16 '11 at 4:23
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I wouldn't think much of it, just learn as they told you:

La mesa está hecha de madera

La mesa es de madera

It a fixed sentence.

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I can't explain this with technically correct terms, but when using a participle verb, as hecho (and not the passive voice, which would be hecho also) you never use es and rather use está.

The permanent/transitive state rule that you cited is right, but doesn't apply in this case.

In all this cases, está is used and never es (when using participle):
la puerta está hecha de ...
el grupo está compuesto por ...
el queso está fabricado por ...

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This is the only correct answer. Es + past participle = passive, está + past participle = state (permanent or not). –  dainichi Jul 27 '12 at 1:02
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