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Aquel hombre era Hari Seldon, el ser que representaba la única chispa de esfuerzo creador que subsistía en la decadencia general.

Fundación e Imperio de Isaac Asimov

I don't understand the use of the verb ser in this context - what grammar is this?

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    "el ser" in this case refers to the noun "the being", as opposed to the verb "to be". – jacobo Feb 26 at 10:02
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    dle.rae.es/ser ser (1) is the verb, but here is also ser (2) a noun with several meanings; in this case, the being - as brazofuerte indicates ut supra – user28386 Feb 26 at 11:11
  • is it like a human bbein? – user21669 Feb 26 at 12:13
  • Yes. It would be like "the human being" but it also could be like "the creature". A being is something that has the quality or state of having existence – DGaleano Feb 26 at 12:46
  • is it like...he being the being who...)? – user21669 Feb 26 at 12:47
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As pointed by @brazofuerte and @Joseph_Jaroslav, the sentence is not using the word ser as a verb but as a noun. You can check the DLE and found two different meanings marked respectively with the superindexes 1 (verb) and 2 (noun).

You have also noticed a similar situation with the word being in English that can be a gerund or a noun as well depending on the context.

You can search the original text in English to check the translation. I've found the excerpt using Google Books

That man was Hari Seldon, the man who represented the one spark of creative effort left among the gathering decay...

Fundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

The Spanish translator chose to not repeat the word man and instead he replaced the second one by the noun "being (EN) / ser (ES)". A bad choice, in my opinion, because it conflicts the original omitting such repetition intended by the author.

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