s_allard wrote:I may be a bit late to this discussion but there is a small but major detail here that I want to dispute. Although I agree with smallwhite's and cainntear's explanation in general here, I strongly disagree with the statement "There's practically no difference between how this works in Spanish and in English."
While this shows a small difference in our approaches to language, it shows a far bigger difference in our approaches to teaching.
Some teachers hate saying anything without giving a complete and explicit rule, but I'm of the school that says to work with the individual and give the information that is needed.
The OP knows the technical distinction between ser and estar in abstract terms, and it had already been discussed as deep as was needed by the time I posted, so I saw no need to repeat that. He had reformulated the rule for himself in a way that wasn't quite right, and I didn't personally feel that further discussing the abstract difference between ser and estar clarified his confusion at all.
Instead of dealing with abstracts, I thought it better to deal with concrete language, and language he understands: L1. The difference between these two constructions maps perfectly well onto English: ser ??ado = passive, estar ??ado = normal adjectives (just with a past participle).
Now that is something that maps perfectly well and perfectly logically to English, and I chose to say that "there's practically no difference" because I believe that's a better way to help someone trust what their brain already knows and use their existing procedural knowledge of the structure. I personally believe that your approach encourages declarative processing of language that is unnecessary for someone with mjfleck2000's current level of Spanish (which is clearly fairly advanced).
Now I may be wrong about that, but I really object to teachers framing things as "problems", as I think it conditions students to be afraid of language when very often there is really strictly no need to be.
And I do genuinely on a linguistic level believe that the ser/estar distinction is less alien to English speakers than is often claimed. Consider
Como es = what is he like
Como está = how is he
The distinction isn't in the verb, but on a deep level, the English speaker's brain makes a very similar categorisation.
There's another thing I disagree with in your approach here, which again I think becomes a barrier to comprehension, and only serves to encourage abstract declarative thinking rather than deep procedural thinking. It is this:
1. In 2010 we were married.
This is somewhat ambiguous. Depending on the context, this sentence could mean two things:
2. We got married in 2010.
3. At the time of certain events in 2010, we were a married couple.
Actually, no, it's not ambiguous. If it's a sentence, and we assume it's not a mistake by the speaker, it can only mean (2), it cannot mean (3).
If you want to discuss why I say that, feel free to start another thread and we'll discuss it there, but this isn't the appropriate place (as the goal of this thread is to help a Spanish learner with a particular concept in Spanish, not deep discussion of linguistics. But in short, because "at the time of certain events in 2010" makes a reference to something else in the context, and "in 2010" doesn't, so trying to interpret 1 as 3 doesn't work because it doesn't actually convey any meaningful message. Notice that I deliberately didn't use a sentence in my post in order to avoid something like this.
The problem here is that you've built an example using the Chomskyian idea of grammaticality, but it has been clearly proven that Chomsky's grammaticality only works for people who've been taught grammar in a particular tradition.
To anyone who isn't looking at the sentence intellectually and just engages with the meaning, "In 2010 we were married" sounds at best like an archaic way of saying "we got married in 2010" (in my head it's the voice of an English screen actor doing a voiceover for a black-and-white film with a very crackly soundtrack) -- at worst the year 2010 and the archaism result in cognitive dissonance and processing fails.
As an example, it fails on two grounds then: it is not natural English, so is difficult to process; and it is not actually that ambiguous, and saying it is is potentially very confusing.
In Spanish, things are much more complicated. If you google ser/estar casado, you'll find a plethora of articles pointing out that the two verbs are basically interchangeable but that Spain tends to use ser whereas Latin America favours estar.
Again, my teaching style is never to tell a student that something is chaotic and that there is no rule, because it's bloody confusing and rarely true.
And in this case it is very much not true. While there are some uses of ser and estar that are dialect dependent, I have never heard any claim that of any confusion in the particular case discussed here. I have never heard Latin Americans say passives with estar, and I've never heard a Spanish person say "soy cansado" -- these things just don't happen.
What I'm saying about this case that makes it so close to English is that we happily categorise I was married (at the time) with I was single (normal adjective) and in our heads it is very distinct from the passive construction I was married (to her by Fr Tony).
I do not believe that the similarity in form is particularly important because every English speaker immediately understands the meaning in about 99% of cases. This means we have the mental machinery to deal with it, and I believe that spending time discussing the technical linguistic meaning of ser vs estar distracts from the simple point that we make all the same distinctions in meaning in English as in Spanish.
That said: I did lie, and it is more complicated than that. Not because of ser and estar (a mere trifle), but because Spanish is more likely to use past participles as adjectives than in English. In English, we have a relatively small set of them "closed"/"shut" (but "open"), "tired" (but "asleep" and "awake"), impressed, amazed, astounded, disappointed etc. In Spanish, it's more of a rule that applies to lots of verbs. But I personally think that's unnecessary and distracting, and that the basic rule is best explained by comparison to the closest English equivalent.