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I understand

I'm related to David, he's my grandad.

translates as

Estoy relacionado con David, él es mi abuelo.

Why is estoy used and not soy?

It seems to me that the relationship is permanent and defining, so I would expect soy to be used.

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"Estoy relacionado con" for a relative relationship sounds a bit weird. I's more common to say it as "Soy familiar/pariente de David, él es mi padre", or "Estoy emparentado con David, él es mi padre" is very common. So there's the same problem with "emparentado" for you – Javi Dec 16 '11 at 14:46
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As Javi mentioned, a better translation is:

Estoy emparentado con David.

When to use ser vs. estar is always difficult for foreign speakers. While the rule of thumb is that ser is used for something permanent, there are many exceptions that you'll just have to learn using the language.

That said: what about inlaws? That relationship is not necessarily permanent. Ask Kim Kardashian.

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So with emparentado you always use estar? I guess all relationships could be considered temporary if you factor in death. – user261 Dec 16 '11 at 18:31
Yes, it's always estar. Not sure about the philosophical explanation :-) However, you use ser to state all specific relationships, biological or not (ella es mi suegra) – Diego Mijelshon Dec 16 '11 at 18:43
I'm not sure about it either! :) – user261 Dec 17 '11 at 12:02
Don't forget that it is estar emparentado but soy pariente; same root, different verb. You cannot assume that the difference between ser and estar lies always in permanence vs. transience. – CesarGon Feb 18 '12 at 13:32
It's more complex than that. Es mi mujer but está casada conmigo; they describe the same relationship using different verbs. – CesarGon Feb 23 '12 at 14:52

As comments state, permanence is not always the key to choose between ser and estar.

When combined with the past participle of a verb, "ser" creates a simple passive, "estar" expresses the state.

So e.g.:

Ser casado = Get married, to enter into marriage
Estar casado = Be married, to be in a marriage

This should explain why you need "estoy" in your example.

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The explanation is simple. SER is "To be" and when this verb is used we usually are talking about ourselves. The most used form of the phrase you are explaining is "Soy el hijo de David" in which you can see the I am very well specified. ESTAR (also "To be") is mostly used as a verb of staying in, meaning, a continuous action and mostly used for others. Though "Estoy Emparentado con..." is a correct way of saying it, "Soy Pariente de..." is the most widely used. Might be related to the humans egocentric phenomenom and definetly states possession of the other in a way. Philosophically examining it. Now, we usually don't even use it that way either in spanish, we tend to say "David es mi padre" or "Es mi padre" because is more correct to mention the other before us which subconsciously shows humbleness.

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