Do you remember when you learned the question ¿Cómo estás?: “How are you?” Once you learned the conjugations of ser, you may have been puzzled. How are you? Shouldn’t that use eres? As you may have figured out then, there are two ways to say “to be”: ser and estar. While ser is used to describe physical characteristics and personality traits and to indicate place of origin (¿De dónde eres?), among other things, estar is used to indicate how someone is feeling (thus ¿cómo estás?) and to indicate location, among other things. We’ll get to estar with emotions in a future section. Here, we’ll be exploring estar with locations. So when we ask ¿Dónde está el gato?, we’re asking “Where is the cat (located)?” (using estar).
In order to answer that question, we’ll need to use a preposition of place. The cat is under the blankets. Prepositions are relation words; they can indicate location, time, or other more abstract relationships. The words “under,” “on,” “around,” and “at” are all prepositions. (Click here to learn more about prepositions in English.) In this section we’ll learn some of the prepositions of place in Spanish.