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Auxiliaries Être and Avoir Posted by on Nov 17, 2008 in Grammar

In French, the verbs être and avoir are considered auxiliaries when followed by a past participle and, thus, used to form the perfect tenses much like have/has/had are auxiliaries in English.  Just as have/has/had, être and avoir are also regular, normal verbs as well.

AVOIR is the auxiliary that is used with most verbs.

ÊTRE is used to form the perfect tense of certain “passage” verbs (that will take you from one place to another) like naître, décéder and mourir; entrer, rester and sortir; arriver, partir and repartir; aller and retourner; monter, descendre, tomber and retomber; passer, venir and all similar verbs like devenir, revenir, etc.
prévenir is conjugated with avoir
convenir can be conjugated with être, but is usually conjugated with avoir.
descendre, monter, passer, rentrer, retourner and sortir are conjugated with avoir when they are transitive or in other words, when they have a direct object associated to them, and in those cases, the subject is not really moving in passage, but rather the objects are.

It is also used to form the perfect tense of pronominal verbs – reflexive verbs (where a person does something to him/herself including personal accidents), reciprocal verbs (two or more people do something interactively) and idiomatic verbs (a regular ole verb that takes on a different meaning when the reflexive pronoun is added).
se promener (reflexive)
Nous nous sommes promenés. (We took a walk.)
s’écrire (reciprocal)
Nous nous sommes écrit. (We wrote to each other.)
s’intéresser (idiomatic)
Je me suis intéressé aux langues. (I’m interested in languages.)

And finally, the auxiliary être is used in the passive voice.  For example:
J’ai été invité à la fête.  (I was invited to the party.)

Remember, the verb être is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir as in:
J’ai été professeur dans une école de langues.
(I was a teacher at a language school.)

And the verb avoir is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir as well as in:
Je n’ai pas eu assez de temps pour finir l’examen de français.
(I didn’t have enough time to finish the French exam.)

Since these auxiliaries are so important, you must make sure to memorize how to conjugate them in the present before you learn anything else about French grammar.

J’ ai Nous avons
Tu as Vous avez
Il/Elle/On a Ils/Elles ont


Je suis Nous sommes
Tu es Vous êtes
Il/Elle/On est Ils/Elles sont

Maintenant vous êtes expert(e) des auxiliaires!

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  1. Mica:

    wow. we are doing le passer compose in french class right now and this helped me soooo much! Now I can have an even higher and speak authenticly. Merci!

  2. GregM:

    J’ai été professeur dans une école de langues.
    I have been a teacher at a language school.

    If you want to say :
    I was a teacher at a language school.
    J´étais professeur dans une école de langues.

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