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I came across the usage "los tacos son ricos"? Does that mean that they are rich instead of tasting good? Is this correct? I thought that one had to use estar in this context.

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Both Los tacos son ricos and Los tacos están ricos are correct, but they mean slightly different things. As you probably already know, the verb "ser" is generally used for permanent qualitites and the verb "estar" is generally used for states, although there are many exceptions. So, what difference does it make to use "ser" or "estar" when speaking about taste?

As a rule of thumb, "estar" is used to emphasize the idea that something is tasty in a given occasion, but that that's not necessarily always true. "Ser" is used when the meal you're talking about is general or unspecific. For example:

La comida de mi colegio no es rica, pero los tacos que sirven hoy están ricos.

"La comida de mi colegio" isn't describing a specific meal in a specific occasion, so "ser" is used. "Los tacos que sirven hoy" is specific: it's not any food and it's not any tacos, but "today's tacos", so "estar" is the most appropriate choice.

So:

Los tacos son ricos => Tacos, as a general thing, are good/tasty.
Los tacos están ricos => Some specific tacos are good/tasty. See below for further clarification

When you say "Los tacos están ricos" you aren't necessarily saying other tacos aren't good, but you aren't saying they are good either. You are just talking about some specific tacos, without mentioning tacos as a general category of food. It's also worth to note that this difference in meaning is really subtle. When describing a meal you are having right now and you want to say it's good, only "estar" sounds natural, but when you're describing a general thing, both "ser" and "estar" sound natural to a native speaker ear. For example, say A offers you some papaya juice and then asks you:

A: ¿Qué tal el jugo de papaya?
You: Está muy rico, gracias. (You wouldn't say es muy rico in this case)

Now, say you're talking with A about your likes and dislikes and A asks you:

A: ¿Te gusta el jugo de papaya?
You: Sí, es muy rico. (Here, both "ser" and "estar" would actually sound natural)

So in the first example "La comida de mi colegio no es rica" would be just as correct as "La comida de mi colegio no está rica". The same thing applies to the second example: if you say "Los tacos están ricos" you may be speaking about some specific or unspecific tacos, and there's no way to know without further context.

In conclusion, use only "estar" with specific things, but when talking about the taste of unspecific things, verb choice doesn't really make any difference.

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It actually means the opposite of what you guessed.

They taste good / great!

A more memorable way to think of it is that, in English, we also call food rich. Rich in flavor, rich in taste, rich in sweetness, etc...

While sometimes in English we call food "rich" in a negative sense, it is always a "good adjective" when describing food in Spanish.

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I'm afraid I can't provide the grammar rules, but as a native Spanish speaker, some educated, I can tell you this:

"Rico", or "ricos", could mean tasty or rich (wealthy). If you translate it literally, it could be wrong. The meaning/correct word comes from the context where it's used. Yes, in Spanish it's correct.

It's also correct to say "Los tacos están ricos".

Another example for this could be: "Uranio enriquecido" translated to English "Enriched uranium" same as "enriched flour" / "harina enriquecida".

Regarding the verb to be, ser o estar in Spanish, I've found that ser is for permanent or stable in the long term situations. Like "I'm from Bolivia", means "Yo soy de Bolivia". It's something that will not change in time, or circumstances. However, if you say "I'm hungry" / "Yo tengo hambre", that will soon change as soon as you eat a good meal.

Hope this helps.

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"Los tacos son ricos" is the way South American speakers say "Tacos are tasty".

"Los tacos están ricos" is the way Spanish people refer to it.

Basically, two things here:

  1. Ricos: in this case, it means "tasty" instead of rich, because of the context
  2. "Ser" is used in South America while "estar" is commonly used in Spain

In Spain, usually they don't say "La comida de mi colegio no es rica", however they say "La comida de mi colegio no está rica", both meaning the same.

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  • 2
    This is utterly wrong. Both ser or estar are used in Spanish language. No matter the place you are. – Alejandro Mar 22 '16 at 17:57
  • well, as a native Spanish speaker, I think we have different accents in South America and Spain, but if you think you know more than me, congrats... – Behind The Sciences Mar 22 '16 at 18:55
  • @BehindTheSciences, FYI Ustanak is a native Spanish speaker. I'm also a native Spanish speaker and you are wrong. Being natives does not make us experts. We have a lot to learn from many very knowledgeable people around here. Please read Yey's answer. – DGaleano Mar 22 '16 at 20:55
  • I added another example. I think in this case, both "ser" and "estar" can be used and there is no need to confuse to much someone that is learning Spanish – Behind The Sciences Mar 23 '16 at 7:19
  • In Spain people would say "La comida de mi colegio no está buena". They would use "estar" because "bueno" is an ambiguous word and verb choice (ser bueno vs estar bueno) resolves that ambiguity. I don't think there's a difference in usage with "rico" on both sides of the pond. – Yay Mar 30 '16 at 8:39

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