Unit 8: Preterit (Part 2), “to be” verbs, present participle and progressive tenses

8.3 Other Verbs Used to Express “To Be”

Besides ser and estar (as well as certain idioms with tener and weather expressions with hacer), several other common verbs at times may translate as “to be.” Three of these, already seen with other meanings, are quedar(se), seguir and encontrarse. (A fourth, llevar, will be studied in section 10.2).

Like estar, quedar(se) is used to express a “resultant state” (state or condition resulting from an action), but is stronger than estar:

Mi papá estuvo furioso al saber las noticias.

Mi papá (se) quedó furioso al saber las noticias.



My dad was furious upon hearing the news.

When the subject is human, quedar may also mean “to be”:

Tomás se quedó satisfecho con los resultados. Tomás was satisfied with the results.

When a form of “to stay” or “to remain” does not sound like the best translation or does not make sense in context, chances are that a form of “to be” is the best way to render the Spanish. In the above case, the only way to differentiate between estuvo and (se) quedó if you are translating to English is to underline se quedó to show that it is the more emphatic of the two.

Quedar may also express location when the subject is not human:

Quetzaltenango, la segunda ciudad de Guatemala, queda en el oeste del país. Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala, is in the west of the country.

The use of quedar versus quedarse is subject to many subtleties and regional variations that rarely if ever affect its translation for “to be.”

Encontrarse may also express location, regardless of whether the subject is human or not.

-¿Dónde te encuentras ahora mismo? “Where are you right now?”
Varios glaciares se encuentran en el sur de Chile. Several glaciers are in the south of Chile.

Several glaciers are found in the south of Chile.

Several glaciers are located (situated) in the south of Chile.

Encontrarse may also express a state of health:

-¿Cómo te encuentras hoy? “How are you today?”
-Me encuentro muy bien. ¿Y tú? “I’m very well. And you?”

Seguir, especially when followed by an adjective or a location, often has the meaning of “to be” + “still”:

-¿Elsa sigue enferma? “Is Elsa still sick?”
-Sí, sigue en el hospital. “Yes, she’s still in the hospital.”

“Yes, she remains in the hospital.”

Although there are cases when these verbs may be translated both by their original or literal meaning as well as “to be” (see last example with seguir), other times, when the translations “to remain,” “to stay,” and “to find (oneself)” do not sound correct or fail to make sense, you may find that their meaning is often best rendered with the verb “to be.”


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