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The English verb to be typically translates to either ser or estar in both Spanish and Portuguese.

Is there any instance in which the ser /estar distinction is different between Spanish and Portuguese? To clarify, could to be be translated as ser on one language and estar on the other?

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Ser in both languages (and Catalan) comes from Latin sum, esse, fui, futurus and estar comes from sto, stare, steti, status. (That status is good for memorizing the difference, if you already speak Latin.) They can diverge any time speakers choose, of course, but they're coming from the same roots. – Brian Nov 22 '11 at 3:03
French and Italian also have words derived from both Latin words but in their cases one has come to dominate at the expense of the other. So I think just the Latin origins alone is not enough to guarantee both will stay in place through a language's evolution. – hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 9:52
up vote 8 down vote accepted

In Spanish (as in Portuguese), estar is used for things that are transient in nature or potentially changeable; ser is used for things that are consistent or stable.

The only difference I can find is that in Spanish, estar is used for location, among many other things, but ser virtually never is. In Portuguese, both estar and ser are used, based on whether the location has a potential to be transient in nature.

For example, estar would be used for both the location of a house and a car, in Spanish. In Portuguese, estar would be used for a car and ser would be used for a house, since the location of the house cannot change.


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Just to add to Richard's answer, (can't comment, i'm new):

In Spanish, there are times when both ser and estar can be used to refer to locations (preference might depend on local variations), and some times ser will be used always/most of the time.

For example, when talking about an address, you'll often see "¿Dónde es [esta dirección]?" or "¿Donde queda?".

When referring to something that will happen, like a party, using ser (in present or future tense) is the usual. For example:

"La fiesta es en mi casa." / "La fiesta será en mi casa." = "The party will be at my place."

"¿Dónde es el evento?" = ¿Where is the event (taking place)?

About the difference between the two verbs, is as stated in the other answers, but like a comment (by hipietrail) implies, evolution of the languages render this a very arbitrary distinction.

For some detailed information:

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