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Color, generally, is ascribed with ser. In the mental model I'm assembling as I learn Spanish, this seems to be because it is, generally, a durable characteristic. El cielo es azul - the sky is blue.

What is the correct verb for a temporary color that reflects a state? For example, 'the sky is grey'. Is it el cielo es gris, because it's a color, or el cielo está gris, because the color is being used to describe a present state? Or is that kind of construction not used?

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It's "firmamento" and the common word is "cielo" –  Emilio Gort Jan 18 at 13:40
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@EmilioGort Thanks, edited. –  Michael Ekstrand Jan 18 at 13:41
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

When is a temporary state use está

El cielo está gris.

For durable state use es

El cielo es azul

Firmamento is correct, but the common word used is cielo

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'Firmamento' refers to the "fixed stars sky", the immutable place where planets wander. 'Cielo' refers to the common sky, both daytime and nighttime, as well as to Heaven. –  Envite Jan 20 at 6:37
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Also, "Cielo" like "Heaven" (usually capitalized) means the catholic kingdom, the paradise, the Other Life. "Firmamento" is used only for astronomic or geographic purposes. –  Arkana Jan 21 at 12:32
    
Firmamento lo he visto en poesia antigua tambien –  Emilio Gort Jan 21 at 14:11
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This is one common problem to english speakers when learning spanish.

While in english you use "to be" as the same verb for defining states, on spanish we use two different verbs, "ser" y "estar", with "ser" as a verb wich implies a fixed or adquired state while "estar" implies some type of "transitivity".

An example. On english you could say: Peter is a software developer, he is working at Nokia.

While on spanish this phrase would be: Pedro es desarrollador de sofware, está trabajando para Nokia.

So, Peter's condition is to be (SER) a software developer, while it's current situation is again to be (but ESTAR on spanish) working at Nokia.

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