El pollo ......... sobre la mesa.

Then the two options are es and está.

I think the both are correct but duolingo app says it's está adding more to my confusion.

Why es is not correct here? Moreover, I hope somebody would explain me the use of both words in detail.

  • 2
    Why do you think both are correct? Do you perceive any difference between using one or the other? I think you should clarify what is giving you trouble, in order to get a more specific answer. I think there are plenty of "Ser vs. Estar" questions in this site, and almost all address the difference from the same perspective. If you could add more details about your problems with it probably you'll get more meaningful answers.
    – Diego
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 13:57
  • 1
    Related question, although I don't think is really a duplicate, since the confusion seems be be more about "esta" and "está". See if the answers of that question clarify yours. Don't forget to use the site's search engine to locate many other similar questions that could be relevant and answer your question already.
    – Diego
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


Related to the sentence you gave, only está is right.

The key concepts you must know for sure:

  • This is a sentence about the location of something.
  • When dealing with the place something is, was or will be, the verb estar must be used.

So, your sentence can only be this one:

El pollo está sobre la mesa

There are many differences between the verbs ser and estar. Nevertheless, you can start by taking these tips:

  • When dealing with properties that are not immutable, such as location, time, etc, you must use estar.
    • When you use location prepositions to talk about places, such as bajo, en, entre, sobre, tras, you cannot use the verb ser.

Ellos están en la estación de trenes.
Yo estaré fuera de mi oficina desde las tres de la tarde.

  • When dealing with permanent features of someone or something, you must use ser.

El cielo es azul.

  • When dealing with a feature that is not permanent, you should use estar so as to emphasize that:

El cielo está negro por el humo del incendio.

  • When dealing with dates, with the moment some event happened or will happen, you must use ser.

El concierto será mañana en la tarde.

  • Then when we are not dealing with location, does the use of both es and está correct? Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 13:07
  • No. The differences of ser and estar, are not so simple. What I've told you is just about this particular case. It's advisable to learn them one by one. I will expand my answer in a few seconds. Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 13:09
  • 1
    I'm a native spanish speaker. This question made me really judge the logic under the use of two verbs instead of one (while "ser" is more of an existential or inner nature and "estar" is more situational)
    – Alvaro
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 15:22
  • I'm still preferring two separate verbs, because it allows you to be more specific without using too many complements. For example, the difference between "el cielo es azul" y "el cielo está negro", in languages without these two separate verbs, such as English and German, can only be obtained using complements of time... Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 12:18
  • One more complication for ser/estar for locations: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/1790/… Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 6:46

There is a simple saying in Spanish that goes

"No es lo mismo ser que estar" not easily translated to english unless you add more information to the phrase. "It is not the same to be (a person/animal/thing) than to be (in a place)"

You should learn that since it may help you identify where to use each one. In Spanish we differentiate between being a person (ser) and being in a place (estar). Since the chicken is on the table, el pollo "ESTÁ" en la mesa. Another thing would be "this chicken is bad", since here we are talking about the chicken (being not a person but an animal in this case) the sentence would be "el pollo es malo".

EDIT: Diego's comment made me think "the chicken is bad" is an example that can lead to a missunderstanding unles there is more information in the phrase. The chicken is a bad chicken, it is dirty, breaks everything and the like, in this case

el pollo es malo

The chicken is bad -rotten- and you can't eat it, in this case:

el pollo está malo

Edit2: The missunderstanding is obviously in english. In Sapnish there is no missunderstading, since "el pollo es malo" is self explanatory while in English it is not.

  • "This chicken is bad" is more prone to be "está" malo, since with "el pollo es malo" you would be referring to its character, and that is not likely.
    – Diego
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 16:45
  • Cualquiera de las dos sería buena en este caso dependiendo del significado que queramos dar, tu problema es que no has entendido la frase como deberías (o no he dado yo la suficiente información sobre porqué es malo). Yo tengo un corral y hay un pollo revoltoso que me ensucia todo y molesta a las gallinas. Ese pollo ES malo
    – YoMismo
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 16:47
  • He entendido el ejemplo perfectamente. Dije que era "menos probable" (especialmente careciendo de contexto) no imposible o un error gramatical. Transferimos a los animales algunas cualidades de las personas: "Este perro es leal", "este gato es inteligente". El ser malvado es una cualidad que puede requerir una elección consciente, pero puede ser empleada en animales. Simplemente, careciendo de contexto, la otra traducción me parecía más probable.
    – Diego
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 16:59
  • Es igual de probable dependiendo de lo que quieras decir, y el hecho de emplear es hace que todos sepamos de qué estamos hablando, ningún hispano-hablante habría pensado que el pollo está malo (que por cierto esta frase que podría llevar a error, ya que el pollo del corral podría estar malito o podemos estar comiendo un pollo en malas condiciones). Si eres hispano-hablante no deberías haber tenido duda, la frase era autoexplicativa. No así en Inglés donde debería haber dado más información para que un anglo-parlante lo entendiese.
    – YoMismo
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 7:49
  • Desde luego, no hay ambigüedad en español entre "es" y "está". La hay en inglés en "The chicken is bad". No deberías estar tan a la defensiva con tanto "tu problema es que no has entendido la frase" y "Si eres hispano-hablante no deberías haber tenido duda". Sólo hice una crítica constructiva que sirvió para mejorar tu post (tú mismo añadiste ese "edit"). Si lees bien mis comentarios verás que en ningún momento dije que estuvieras equivocado. Sólo hice un comentario respecto a la ambigüedad de "is" al ser traducido al español careciendo de contexto.
    – Diego
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 14:19

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