The French Verb Être: All You Need to Know - Talk in French
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The French Verb Être: All You Need to Know

One of the most important French verbs you could learn is the verb être. This highly used irregular verb which means “to be” can be found everywhere--in simple daily conversations, idiomatic expressions, written language, and elsewhere--making it a must-learn for anyone who is starting to learn French.

Here in this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this verb. From its usage to conjugation tables, and so much more!

You can also download FREE audio drills for the present indicative form of être by signing up to the newsletter when you click the yellow button below.You'll find the MP3 files in the massive folder of freebies you'll receive upon signing up!
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I. The uses of être

3 ways the verb être (to be) is used

  1. Être is used with nouns, adjectives, and adverbs to describe the permanent or temporary state of being. Example: Je suis une amoureuse des animaux. (I am an animal lover.)
  2. It is also used to indicate possession. Example: C’est mon chien. (It’s my dog.)
  3. Also to talk about someone’s job or profession.  Example: Je suis étudiant. (I am a student.)

As an auxiliary verb

  1. Compound tenses. Être is an auxiliary verb which is used with the past participle of several French verbs to form compound tenses such as the perfect or the past perfect. Example: Je suis allé en France l'année dernière.  (I went to France last year.)
  2. Passive voice. To form the passive tenses in French, être is used followed by the past participle.
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    Present Passive: present tense of être + past participle
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    Passé composé passif (perfect passive): perfect tense of être + past participle
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    Futur passif (future passive): future tense of être + past participle
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    Passé conditionnel passif (past conditional passive): past conditional tense of être + past participle

II. Conjugations of être

INDICATIF

Présent

je suisI am
tu esyou are
il/elle esthe/ she is
nous sommeswe are
vous êtesyou are
ils/elles sontthey are

Imparfait

j'étaisI was being
tu étaisyou were being
il/elle étaithe/she was being
nous étionswe were being
vous étiezyou all were being
ils/elles étaientthey were being

Futur

je seraiI will be
tu serasyou will be
il/elle serahe/ she will be
nous seronswe will be
vous serezyou will be
ils/elles serontthey will be

Passé composé

j'ai étéI was
tu as étéyou were
il/elle a étéhe/ she has been
nous avons étéwe have been
vous avez étéyou have been
ils/elles ont ététhey have been

Passé simple

je fusI was
tu fusyou were
il/elle futhe/ she was
nous fûmeswe were
vous fûtesyou were
ils/elles furentthey were

Plus-que-parfait

j'avais étéI had been
tu avais étéyou had been
il/elle avait étéhe/ she had been
nous avions étéwe had been
vous aviez étéyou had been
ils/elles avaient ététhey had been

Passé antérieur

j'eus étéI had been
tu eus étéyou had been
il/elle eut étéhe/ she had been
nous eûmes étéwe had been
vous eûtes étéyou had been
ils/elles eurent ététhey had been

Futur antérieur

j'aurai étéI will have been
tu auras étéyou will have been
il/elle aura étéhe/ she will have been
nous aurons étéwe will have been
vous aurez étéyou will have been
ils/elles auront ététhey will have been

SUBJONCTIF

Présent

que je soisthat I am
que tu soisthat you are
qu'il/elle soitthat he/ she is
que nous soyonsthat we are
que vous soyezthat you are
qu'ils/elles soientthat they are

Imparfait

que je fussethat I would be
que tu fussesthat you would be
qu’il/elle/on fûtthat he/she would be
que nous fussionsthat we would be
que vous fussiezthat you would be
qu’ils/elles fussentthat they would be

Passé

que j'aie ététhat I have been
que tu aies ététhat you have been
qu'il/elle ait ététhat he/ she have been
que nous ayons ététhat we have been
que vous ayez ététhat you have all been
qu'ils/elles aient ététhat they have been

Plus-que-parfait

que j'eusse ététhat I would have been
que tu eusses ététhat you would have been
qu'il/elle eût ététhat he/she would have been
que nous eussions ététhat we would have been
que vous eussiez ététhat you all would have been
qu'ils/elles eussent ététhat they would have been

CONDITIONNEL

Présent

je seraisI would be
tu seraisyou would be
il/elle seraithe/she would be
nous serionswe would be
vous seriezyou would be
ils/elles seraientthey would be

Passé (1ère forme)

j'aurais étéI would have been
tu aurais étéyou would have been
il/elle aurait étéhe/she would have been
nous aurions étéwe would have been
vous auriez étéyou would have been
ils/elles auraient ététhey would have been

Passé (2ème forme)

j'eusse étéI would have been
tu eusses étéyou would have been
il/elle eût étéhe/she would have been
nous eussions étéwe would have been
vous eussiez étéyou would have been
ils/elles eussent ététhey would have been

PARTICIPE

Présent


étant



Passé

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    masc.sg.: été
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    masc.pl.: été
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    fém.sg.: été
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    fém.pl.: été

PARTICIPE PASSÉ COMPOSÉ

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    ayant été

IMPÉRATIF

Présent

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    sois
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    soyons
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    soyez

Passé

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    aie été
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    ayons été
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    ayez été

INFINITIF


Présent

être

Passé

avoir été

III. Quick Exercise: Fill in the blanks!

1. Je ____ Français (I am French)

Click to reveal the answer

2. Tu ____gentil (You are nice)

Click to reveal the answer

3. Elle ____ jolie (She is cute)

Click to reveal the answer

4. Il _____ sérieux (He is serious)

Click to reveal the answer

5. Nous ____ étudiants (We are students)

Click to reveal the answer

IV. Conclusion

Être is a super-charged, widely-used French verb that you should spend time getting to know along with other most commonly used verbs such as avoir, dire, être, faire, finir, manger, pouvoir, savoir,venir, voir, and vouloir.

But would you believe me if I say that you can master the different conjugations of these verbs without any rote memorization? All you need is a handy pack of audio drills to listen to and practice everyday.

Check out French Verb Drills Mega Bundle and see how you can learn these French verbs naturally.

About the Author Frederic

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +

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