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3 Key Uses Of The French Verb Être – I Will Teach You A Language

the French verb être

Whenever you study French, one of many very first verbs you will uncover  – and one of the crucial essential – is the verb être (to be).

As a primary verb, it behaves identical to its English counterpart.

However there are additionally a couple of different makes use of you want to concentrate on.

If you wish to study even elementary French, you could have to have the ability to use this verb.

So on this submit, I need to take a look at être intimately that will help you perceive every thing it is advisable know. By the point you’ve got completed studying, you will know the three major features of this key French verb.

And you will be prepared to make use of it in actual life, whether or not it is in dialog. Or recognizing one of many makes use of within the French books you are studying.

So let’s get into être.

#1 Être In The Current Tense

French verb être in the present tense

Let’s begin by taking a look at être within the current tense. Identical to the English verb “to be”, être has a special type relying on who it refers to.

And, just like the English equal, it’s irregular. That’s, it doesn’t persist with the standard patterns that the majority verbs comply with.

This is how one can conjugate it within the current tense:

  • je suis (I’m)
  • tu es (you’re)
  • il/elle est (he/she/it’s)
  • nous sommes (we’re)
  • vous êtes (you’re)
  • ils/elles sont (they’re)

Listed here are a couple of instance sentences:

  • Je suis très heureux (I’m very completely satisfied)
  • Est-ce que vous êtes monsieur Le Blanc? (Are you Mr Le Blanc?)
  • Ils sont en retard (They’re late)

Like in English, être is used with professions, however word that the article (un, une – “a”) just isn’t used:

  • Je suis professeur (I’m a instructor)
  • Il est DJ (he’s a DJ)

In fact, there are many different types of this verb in its totally different tenses. However you’ll look these up in any good grammar ebook. So I gained’t offer you an extended record of verb tables right here!

#2 The Verb Être As An Auxiliary Verb

the French verb être as an auxiliary verb

Aside from its use as a verb which means “to be”, être has a second essential use in French. And that’s because the auxiliary verb within the formation of compound tenses.

Earlier than I proceed, let me simply take a second to remind you what a compound tense is.

In French, there are two forms of tense, ‘easy tenses’ and ‘compound tenses’. Easy tenses are ones the place the verb is only one phrase.

Examples are:

  • the current tense (je mange, “I eat”)
  • or the imperfect tense (je mangeais, “I ate” or “I used to be consuming’”).

Compound tenses are ones which might be shaped with an auxiliary verb and the previous participle. These embrace the right tense and the pluperfect tense amongst others.

Let’s take the French good tense for instance. The formation of this tense is similar to the formation of the English current good tense – that is the “have accomplished” type, for instance “I’ve executed my homework”.

On this tense, “have” is called the “auxiliary verb” and “executed” is the “previous participle”. The French good tense is often shaped in the identical means, for instance:

J’ai acheté un stylo (I’ve purchased a pen/I purchased a pen)

As you possibly can see, this tense is shaped utilizing the je type of avoir (to have) because the auxiliary verb plus the previous participle, right here with acheté (purchased).

Nevertheless, in French, typically we have to use être because the auxiliary verb as an alternative of avoir – and when être is used because the auxiliary, it may additionally have an effect on the behaviour of the previous participle.

First, let’s take into consideration when it’s worthwhile to use être because the auxiliary verb as an alternative of avoir.

# 2 Half 1: Verbs Taking Être – “The Être Verbs”

The French verb être - the être verbs

First, there is a group of verbs that all the time take être. They’re principally quite common verbs and usually have one thing to do with motion or a change of state.

Because the listing is sort of brief, the most effective factor to do is simply to recollect them.

Right here’s the listing:

  • aller (to go)
  • arriver (to reach)
  • décéder (to die)
  • demeurer (to stay)
  • descendre (to go down, descend)
  • devenir (to grow to be)
  • entrer (to enter)
  • monter (to go up)
  • mourir (to die)
  • naître (to be born)
  • partir (to go away)
  • rentrer (to go residence)
  • rester (to remain)
  • retourner (to return)
  • revenir (to return again)
  • sortir (to exit)
  • tomber (to fall)
  • venir (to return)

For instance, we are saying:

  • Je suis allé (I went/I’ve gone)
  • Il est parti (he left/he has left)

Nevertheless, a number of the phrases on this listing have two meanings. And when they’re used with the opposite which means, they take avoir as an alternative.

For instance, when sortir is used to imply “to exit”, it takes être. However it may possibly additionally imply “to take (one thing) out” – and when it’s used like this, it takes avoir.

For instance:

  • Il est sorti de chez lui (he went out from his home)
  • Il a sorti son phone (he took out his phone)

Some others that work like this embrace:

  • descendre (to take (one thing) down)
  • entrer (to place (one thing) in, enter (one thing))
  • monter  (to take (one thing) up)

#2 Half 2: Verbs Taking Être – Reflexive Verbs

French verb être - reflexive verbs

There’s one other group of verbs that all the time take être because the auxiliary when forming compound tenses: reflexive verbs.

A reflexive verb is one the place the topic of the sentence (i.e. the individual or factor doing the motion) does the motion to itself. For instance, in English, “I wash myself” is reflexive. On this sentence, “I” am doing the “washing” to myself.

Some verbs are all the time used reflexively. That is extra widespread in French than in English. Typically, the place French makes use of a reflexive verb, English makes use of an expression with ‘get’.

Listed here are some examples:

  • se laver (to scrub (oneself), have a wash)
  • se préparer (to prepare)
  • s’habiller (to dress)
  • se lever (to rise up)
  • se réveiller (to get up)
  • se renseigner (to seek out out (‘inform oneself’))

Typically, non-reflexive verbs can be utilized reflexively to point out that the individual or factor is doing the motion to itself.

For instance:

Je me parle tout seul (I speak to myself)

When it comes to this submit, right here’s the essential level: when reflexive verbs are utilized in compound tenses, additionally they take être:

  • Je me suis réveillé (I awakened)
  • Il s’est lavé (he washed (himself))

Particular Guidelines With Verbs Taking Être

French verb être

When forming compound tenses, verbs that take être – together with the verbs within the être group and all reflexive verbs – behave in a particular method.

With avoir verbs, the previous participle often doesn’t change. Nevertheless, with être verbs, the previous participle has to agree in quantity and gender with the topic of the sentence.

This in all probability feels like lots of grammatical jargon, so let’s attempt to unpick it.

In grammatical phrases, the topic of a sentence is the individual or factor that does the motion. For instance, within the sentence “I kicked the ball”, “I” is the topic as a result of “I” refers back to the individual doing the kicking.

“Quantity” merely means whether or not one thing is singular (only one) or plural (multiple). That is the distinction between “a canine”(singular) and “two canine”, “three canine”, “4 canine” and so forth. (plural).

“Gender” refers as to if one thing is masculine or female. In French, all nouns have a gender. Typically the gender is clear – for instance, un garçon (a boy) is masculine and une fille (a woman) is female.

Nevertheless, typically it could possibly appear quite arbitrary – un bureau (a desk) is masculine, however une desk (a desk) is female. Don’t ask why!

In French, previous participles of verbs (and another kinds of phrase) have masculine, female, singular and plural varieties – “settlement” means ensuring sure phrases within the sentence match with one another.

When a compound tense takes être because the auxiliary, the previous participle must agree with the topic – that’s, it must be masculine or female and singular or plural to match the topic.

This in all probability all sounds fairly difficult and summary, however don’t fear. Now we will take a look at some examples to make all of it a bit clearer.

Examples Of Particular Instances With Être

the French verb être - special cases

Take this sentence:

Il est allé (he went)

The topic, il, is masculine and singular, so right here, we use the masculine singular type of the previous participle: allé.

Nevertheless, if we use elle as an alternative of il, the previous participle modifications:

Elle est allée (she went)

It’s because elle is female, so we have to use the female type of the previous participle: allée.

Now look what occurs if we use ils:

Ils sont allés (they went)

As a result of ils is masculine and plural, you might want to use the masculine plural type of the previous participle: allés.

Lastly, look what occurs with elles:

Elles sont allées (they (all feminine) went)

As a result of elles is female and plural, you might want to use the female plural model of the previous participle: allées.

Listed here are some extra examples:

  • Elles sont venues – they (all feminine) got here
  • Elle est montée en haut – she went upstairs
  • Ils se sont achetés quelque selected à manger – they purchased themselves one thing to eat

Nevertheless, discover that in these examples, the pronunciation doesn’t change, solely the spelling. That is the case more often than not – though not all the time.

#Three The Passive With Être In French

French verb être - passive

The third use of être in French is to type the passive. The excellent news is it really works in precisely the identical approach as in English.

The passive describes when an motion occurs to somebody or one thing slightly than when somebody or one thing does the motion themselves.

For instance, take these two sentences in English:

  • The canine bites the boy
  • The boy is bitten (by the canine)

Within the first sentence, the emphasis is on the canine doing the biting – the canine does the motion. That is an lively sentence.

Nevertheless, within the second sentence, the main target is extra on the truth that the boy is ‘receiving’ the biting – the boy ‘receives’ the motion. That is what you name a passive sentence. In English, you type passive sentences with the verb “to be” plus the previous participle.

In French, it’s precisely the identical. You type the passive utilizing the verb être plus the previous participle. So you’ll be able to translate our 2 instance sentences as:

  • Le chien mord le garçon
  • Le garçon est mordu (par le chien)

Identical to with the compound tenses, with the passive, the verb should agree in quantity and gender with the individual or factor that’s ‘receiving’ the motion. So in the event you change le garçon to la fille, you get

  • Le chien mord la fille
  • La fille est mordue (par le chien)

Right here’s yet one more instance:

Les boissons sont préparées par l’hôtesse (the drinks are ready by the hostess)

As a result of boissons is female and plural, you should use the female plural type of the previous participle: préparées.

One last level to notice concerning the passive in French is that it’s a lot much less widespread than in English. French has an entire vary of different methods to precise concepts the place English employs a passive development.

Être vs Avoir – Translation Traps

To complete, let me simply offer you a few recommendations on the utilization être that may typically catch learners out.

Some sentences in English that use the verb “to be” are expressed in another way in French. For instance, in English, sure expressions like I’m scorching/chilly/hungry/thirsty will not be expressed with être in French – they’re expressed utilizing avoir.

For instance:

  • J’ai chaud – actually, “I’ve scorching”
  • J’ai froid – actually, “I’ve chilly”
  • J’ai faim – actually, “I’ve starvation” – there isn’t any adjective in French for “hungry”
  • J’ai soif – actually, “I’ve thirst” – there isn’t a adjective in French for “thirsty”

One different expression which may throw you firstly is il y a, which means ‘”there’s/there are”.

As you possibly can see, the French expression makes use of a from the verb avoir – though right here, I like to recommend simply accepting il y a as a set expression which means “there’s/there are”, and never fear an excessive amount of concerning the grammar.

The French Verb Être: Important To Mastering French

French verb être - a crucial verb

Être which means “to be” is straightforward sufficient to know. However a number of the different grammar associated to this verb could seem slightly difficult at first.

Être is likely one of the commonest verbs within the French language. And one that you simply’ll have to grasp if you wish to converse good French.

Nevertheless, there’s no want to fret about it an excessive amount of since, like most issues, with apply, it can shortly turn out to be second nature.

As ever, crucial options of a language are the most typical. So just remember to’re getting your day by day dose of French listening, movie-viewing or studying in order that troublesome verbs like être begin to sink in additional shortly.

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The programme is aimed toward low intermediate and intermediate learners (A2-B1 on the CEFR), and works by offering you the “Managed Immersion” you must internalise the core grammar of French, together with the right tense with être.

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Has this text clarified the makes use of of the verb être for you? Which different elements of French grammar do you discover tough? Share your experiences within the feedback under.

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