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The edge-cases of ser and estar still seem to get me. My understanding is that when speaking of a location, I should use estar.

La biblioteca está aquí.

However, a student I am tutoring had a question marked as incorrect for the following:

El partido de baloncesto está en el gimnasio.

saying that it should be

El partido de baloncesto es en el gimnasio.

When I say the two, second sounds correct, but I am unable to give the student a rule to go by.

When should the verb used when describing location be ser and when should it be estar?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

When you're speaking about the location where an event takes place then the verb "ser" is the one you have to use:

El partido será en el estadio.

El partido estará en el estadio.* (Incorrect)

El concurso de monólogos es en el pabellón número 5.

El concurso de monólogos está en el pabellón número 5.* (Incorrect)

if it's not an event (it's where something or someone is located) then "estar" is the verb:

Los jugadores están en el estadio.

Los jugadores son en el estadio.* (Incorrect)

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Nice answer Javi! +1 –  César Feb 9 '12 at 23:18
    
+1 @snumpy remember that this is limited to location. There are more differences associated to both verbs!! –  Joze Feb 10 '12 at 8:57
    
@Joze thanks. I'm familiar with the other differences but had some confusion when it comes to location (being that it can break the standard "essential" and "conditional" rule) –  snumpy Feb 10 '12 at 13:03
    
@Javi thanks. Is there anything besides an event whose location would use ser to describe? –  snumpy Feb 10 '12 at 13:06
    
@snumpy I think that "events taking place" is the only exception to the rule "estar for locations". It's difficult to state that there aren't more exceptions, but at least anything else comes to my mind, so far. –  Javi Feb 10 '12 at 13:27
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I find it is helpful to remember the etymology of estar when talking about location. From http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/estar#Spanish

      From Latin stāre (“stand”), 

This makes cases like, "El banco está al norte," or "San Diego está en California," make sense. The bank is likely in a permanent location, and San Diego is certainly not moving anywhere. This makes the normal temporary/permanent question useless for these types of sentences, but if you think that the bank or city is standing in a location, then the use of estar makes sense.

Unless, of course, you are talking about an event which "takes place" in a certain location. Then it would be ser as other posters have explained quite well.

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(disclaimer, I'm a native Spanish speaker, so I find it funny that both 'ser' and 'estar' use a single word in some languages)

The point isn't that you sometimes use 'ser' and sometimes use 'estar'. They're two different concepts.

In short, "ser" relates to the very being of something, while "estar" is (usually) a temporary condition. That's why you say "Estoy enfermo" (I'm sick) and "Soy zurdo" (I'm left-handed); one is (hopefully) temporary, while the other is not only permanent, but part of my self-definition.

Usually, for location you use "estar" because at one moment you're at one place but later you can be somewhere else. The place you are is a temporary condition.

Events, on the other hand, usually have their whole existence tied to a single place, so they "are" there until they're no more. But, if it's a mobile event (like a parade, or a voyage), then you can say:

El desfile aún no llega, está muy lejos.

El crucero está aquí, llegó ayer.

But, if your location specification is wide enough to encompass the whole event, you again use "ser":

El desfile será desde este lugar hasta este otro.

Fue un crucero a través del atlántico.

Of course, in these cases it's more common to refer to the moving entities and not the moving event.

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when you say "está muy lejos" or "está aquí" you're not saying where the event takes place. You're saying how far it is from where you are, so it's not exactly a location but a distance. Anyway, both "el desfile" and "el crucero" can be interpretated as things that are not events: a group of people and a ship. –  Juanillo Feb 10 '12 at 8:10
    
@Juanillo: it's hard to find examples of movable events; but the important point is not about locations, distances, events, things, whatever. the real issue is about permanence and definition: if it's an intrinsic part of the being, use "ser" if it's temporary, use "estar" –  Javier Feb 10 '12 at 18:58
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