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21/01/2014

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Alon Lischinsky
Another mystery, even greater perhaps, is that [estar] is also used for people who are dead.

I don't think this is quite surprising. All predicative uses of past participles (such as muerto) have to be constructed with estar, or they would be interpreted as passives.

Ser muerto means ‘to be killed’, not ‘to be dead’:

“Los beligerantes tienen derecho a no asentir a la señal de parlamento si sospechan que puede tener por objeto el espionaje en su campo, y no son responsables, si en lo recio y confusión del combate, es muerto o herido el parlamentario.” (C. Arenal, Ensayo sobre el Derecho de Gentes)

The most idiomatic use has perfective value: to have been killed right this moment.

“Ved que es muerto el impostor, y también su hijo es traidor, cómplice suyo.” (A. Saavedra, El crisol de la lealtad)

This is definitely not your everyday spoken Spanish, but it's familiar to any educated speaker from Siglo de Oro usage.

Peter Harvey

Of course that is the correct explanation. As the post I link to says:

"when a form of ser is followed by a past participle, it generally refers to the process of a verb's action taking place, while estar followed by a participle generally refers to a completed action. For example, in los coches fueron rotos por los estudiantes (the cars were broken by the students), fueron rotos passively refers to the action of the cars being broken. But in los coches están rotos (the cars are broken), the action has been completed."

It's the difference between English:

His arm was broken in the accident.
and
His arm was [already] broken when I met him.

But it still surprises people learning Spanish who are taught the basic rule. I have mentioned this to Spaniards as:

Yo estoy aquí -- por el momento. Y Franco está muerto -- ¡por el momento!

They too are surprised and find it hard to explain.

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