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Être verbs - French Auxiliary Verbs

Verbs that require être as the auxiliary

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An auxiliary verb, or helping verb, is a conjugated verb used in front of another verb in compound tenses in order to indicate the mood and tense of the verb.

In French, the auxiliary verb is either avoir or être. All French verbs are classified by which auxiliary verb they take, and they use the same auxiliary verb in all compound tenses. Most French verbs use avoir. The following is a list of verbs (and their derivatives) that require être:
    aller   to go

    arriver   to arrive

    descendre   to descend / go downstairs
       (redescendre   to descend again)

    entrer   to enter
       (rentrer   to re-enter)

    monter   to climb
       (remonter   to climb again)

    mourir   to die

    naître   to be born
       (renaître   to be reborn, born again)

    partir   to leave
       (repartir   to leave again)

    passer   to pass

    rester   to stay

    retourner   to return

    sortir   to go out
       (ressortir   to go out again)

    tomber   to fall
       (retomber   to fall again)

    venir   to come
       (devenir   to become
       parvenir   to reach, achieve
       revenir   to come again, come back)
These are all intransitive verbs of a certain kind of movement. You do get used to these verbs over time and one day you'll just know whether to use être or avoir without even having to think about it. But in the meantime, you might find it useful to use a mnemonic device.


Notes

1. In addition to the above, all pronominal verbs use être as the auxiliary verb as well:

   Je me suis levé. - I got up.
   Il s'est rasé. - He shaved.


2. For all verbs conjugated with être, the past participle has to agree with the subject in gender and number in all of the compound tenses (learn more):

   Il est allé. - He went.   Elle est allée. - She went.
   Ils sont allés. - They went.   Elles sont allées. - They went.


3. Verbs are conjugated with être because they are intransitive (have no direct object). However, six of these verbs can be used transitively (with a direct object), and when this happens, they need avoir as the auxiliary verb.


Keep reading
   Introduction to être verbs
   Remembering être verbs
   Être verbs used transitively
   Test on être verbs


Related lessons
   Repeating auxiliary verbs
   Le passé
   Compound tenses
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