4

I know the difference between the "ser" and "estar" verbs; for example, in the following instance, if it is a temporal situation, then it should use "estar". But I can't figure out which one would exactly be for the past continuous sense (era/estaba) in the the example:

It was dark, I couldn't see her face.

Estaba / era oscuro. No pude ver su cara.

Because in one hand getting dark is not a permanent situation and also describes an object with an adjective, and in another hand the sentence is narrating about an event. Could we use "estaba" as well instead of "era" in narration of a past event?

  • You can alter the meaning of that sentence in English by the choice of conjunction you precede it with, for example try putting While or Because in front of it so I suspect the answer to this depends on what was leading up to the situation where it arose. – mdewey Feb 19 at 10:08
  • It's important for English speakers to understand that there are two different verbs here, not two variations on the same verb. This comes down from Latin, "esse" versus "stare". A Spanish speaker doesn't think about which verb to use any more than you would think about whether to use "eat" or "sleep". The odd thing is that a language like English tries to make one verb do double duty. – Walter Mitty Feb 19 at 11:27
8

You should use "estaba" because you are talking about the state of a place at a given time:

Estaba oscuro.

"era" would mean that the place you were in was dark by nature: no windows, no possible light sources, etc. I wouldn't say "era oscuro", though, I'd be a bit more explicit:

Era un sitio oscuro.

or

El sitio era oscuro.

The fact that you are narrating an event does not matter for the purpose of picking between "ser" and "estar".

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  • Thanks, you described it well. I understood. So, narration doesn't matter for the purpose of picking between "ser" and "estar". – Armin Feb 19 at 10:38
  • I partially agree. I want to add that "era" can also be used to describe not only a place but a time frame. i.e era una noche oscura. You could also say "era ̶u̶n̶ ̶s̶i̶t̶i̶o̶ oscuro" but you can omit "un sitio" and leave it implicit. So in conclusión, I partially agree because the answer says you should use "estaba" but it implies you can use either. My answer would be that both can be used because "it was" could refer to a place or to a time. btw i found this nice song just searching for "era oscuro" :-) youtu.be/eaaSkowrGus?t=23 – DGaleano Feb 19 at 13:28
  • @DGaleano It's true that "estaba oscuro" might refer to a time frame instead of a place. However, I would never say "ser oscuro" to describe a time frame. About the (Sephardic) song, things like *"Miserable, ¿por qué venís agora a recordarme de lo que yo pasí?" might be perfect Ladino but surely aren't valid modern Spanish. "Era oscuro" sounds very weird by itself, unless you make it clear that you are referring to a specific place. – OnlyThenDidIReckonMyCurse Feb 19 at 13:51
  • Lo de la canción era una P.S. era una noche oscura es perfectamente normal. El hecho es que "it was" puede referirse a un lugar o puede referirse a un momento por lo tanto puede usarse era o estaba. Ahora no sé de dónde sacas "ser oscuro" pero igual uno siempre puede decir que "la cueva es oscura". "oscuro" puede ser una condición temporal o permanente por lo que unas veces se usa ser y otras estar. – DGaleano Feb 19 at 19:55
  • "Era una noche oscura" es correcto, claro. Pero es que "una noche oscura" es un grupo nominal, no un adjetivo como en este caso. No puedes decir en ningún caso *"estaba una noche oscura", salvo que interpretes "una noche" como sujeto y "oscura" como atributo, que sería VSO. Yo no saco "ser oscuro" de ninguna parte, tú lo dijiste. Y la diferencia entre si la condición es temporal o permanente (o más bien si se percibe como perteneciente a las circunstancias o a la propia naturaleza de aquello de lo que se habla. Ej.: "estar muerto" no es precisamente temporal) ya aparece en mi respuesta. – OnlyThenDidIReckonMyCurse Feb 19 at 20:06
1

As a Spanish native speaker, "Estaba oscuro. No pude ver su cara." "Era oscuro. No pude ver su cara." elicit different pictures in my head.

Without further context, "Estaba" makes me think of the darken environment. "Era" makes me think that he/she/it may have been of a dark complexion. Perhaps because of the quality of the verb "ser" which is used to describe the essence/characteristics of a person, object.

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-1

In contrast with the other answer I want to say that to translate "It was dark" first you need to be specific about what "it was" refers to.

"it was" could be a place or it could be a time, then you could be talking about a permanent condition or about a temporary one, and as you already understand one option will call for the use of ser and the other for the use of estar

You could be talking about a place that is always dark and say "era ̶u̶n̶ ̶s̶i̶t̶i̶o̶ oscuro" but you can omit "un sitio" and leave it implicit, specially in narration. era oscuro

Or, you could be talking about a place that is not usually dark but it was at that time. "la casa estaba oscura y ..."

So in conclusión, you should use "estaba" if you are talking about the state of a place at a given time but you should use "era" if you are talking about the permanent state of a place or if you are talking about a time when "it was" dark.

Examples of it was :

  • as a time/moment:
    • Era una noche oscura y no pude ver su cara = It was a dark night and I could not see his face
    • Era miércoles = It was wednesday.
  • as a temporary state:
    • Entramos a la casa y estaba oscura y... = We enter the house and it was dark and...
  • as a permanent state:
    • Entramos a la cueva y era oscura por lo que .... = We enter the cave and it was dark so I could not ..

"oscuro" could be temporary or permanent condition so you should pick the ser or estar verbs accordingly.

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  • Negativo porque lo que dices no es cierto, como ya te he dicho y no te has molestado en intentar rebatir (salvo con un enlace a una canción en un idioma distinto del español). "Oyó un ruido y se escondió bajo la mesa. Estaba oscuro". Bien. *"Oyó un ruido y se escondió bajo la mesa. Era oscuro". Mal, parece que estás diciendo que lo que "era oscuro" era el sujeto de la oración anterior, o incluso la situación, o cualquier otra cosa que no sea el lugar. – OnlyThenDidIReckonMyCurse Feb 19 at 21:57
  • @OnlyThenDidIReckonMyCurse Relea.....Otra vez!!!!. *Lo de la canción no cuenta. Era una nota APARTE. Era oscuro es correcto. Punto. El cuarto era oscuro. La cueva era oscura. No hay debate. Es correcto decir ERA OSCURO. El voto negativo me tiene sin cuidado todavía me quedan 9255 puntos o aproximadamente 20 veces los tuyos. Esta es la primera vez en muchos años que estoy en este SE que resulta alguien que discute como tu. FIN. No vas a obtener más respuestas mias. Que tengas una vida muy feliz. – DGaleano Feb 19 at 22:46
  • Se te ve muy maduro. El negativo no es un castigo, es para marcar una respuesta que no es correcta. Como bien sabes, en ningún momento hablamos sobre "El cuarto era oscuro", oración obviamente correcta, sino sobre "Era oscuro" (con sujeto elidido, "you can [...] leave it implicit", que decías). No necesito respuestas tuyas para ser feliz, me vale con haber hecho lo posible por aclarar un error. – OnlyThenDidIReckonMyCurse Feb 19 at 22:56

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