Tag Archive | Etre

Omitting the Possessive Adjective

In an imperative or command:

In French, possessive adjectives are used to modify the noun they precede.

Voici ma mère. | This is my mother.

Regarde ma nouvelle voiture ! | Look at my new car!

A common construction is one where the possessive adjective is dropped in an imperative or command (and replaced with a definite article along with a personal pronoun) only if an action is being taken on a physical attribute (head, back, arm etc.). In the following examples, action is not being taken on the physical attribute, therefore the possessive adjective remains.

Regarde mon dos. | Look at my back.

Remarque mes cheveux. | Notice my hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Masse-moi le dos. | Massage my back.

Coupe-moi les cheveux. | Cut my hair.

Tiens-moi la main. | Hold my hand.


Possessive Adjective










Personal Pronoun

Definite Article










In a statement:

The possessive adjective may also be dropped in a statement only if an action is being taken on the physical attribute. In the following examples, an action is not being taken.

Je regarde son dos. | I’m looking at his/her back.

Elle remarque ses cheveux. | She’s noticing his/her hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Je lui masse le dos. | I’m massaging his/her back.

Elle me coupe les cheveux. | She’s cutting my hair.

The possessive adjective takes the form of the appropriate personal pronoun and is placed before the verb, and a definite article is placed before the object. The same applies to pronominal verbs (when the action is being done to oneself).

  • I wash my hands. = Je me lave les mains.
  • She brushes her hair. = Elle se brosse les cheveux.



Possessive Adjective












Personal Pronoun


Definite Article












In the past tense (passé composé):

In the past tense as well, the personal pronoun is placed after the subject (just as it is in the present tense).


Personal Pronoun


Definite Article














Personal Pronoun


Past Participle

Definite Article














In the past tense using pronominal verbs:

The construction for using pronominal verbs is much like using passé composé with the exception that, as with all reflexive verbs, the past participle is conjugated with être.


Personal Pronoun


Past Participle

Definite Article














I hope everyone is doing well and having a wonderful week!

Merci à vous !


The Passive Voice

What is the passive voice? It is the manner of constructing a sentence in such a way that the receiver of the action becomes the subject, instead of the one doing the action. The passive in French is usually formed with the auxiliary verb être + past participle. This construction occurs most frequently in the passé composé (use passé composé of être + past participle) and future (use future of être + past participle).

Ces lettres ont été écrites* par mon frère.

These letters were written by my brother.

Un grand édifice sera construit ici par le gouvernement.

A tall building will be constructed here by the government.

*The past participle of verbs conjugated with the auxiliary verb être agrees in gender and number with the subject of the sentence.

The English passive voice sometimes expresses an indefinite idea, such as “it is said”, meaning “people say”; “one says” meaning, “they say”. In such cases, French does not use the passive construction, but rather the pronoun on (one) and the active form of the verb.

On dit qu’il est riche.

One says that he is rich. / It is said that he is rich.

On parle anglais ici.

One speaks English here. / English is spoken here.

Occasionally the English passive is translated by a reflexive in French:

Cela ne se fais pas.

That does not do itself. / That is not  done.

As you guy can see, I’m trying something different with the posts. I’ve eliminated the bullet points and opted for something else. Let me know which you prefer. Also, would anyone be interested in me adding pages to the menu at the top of the blog? If so, what would you like to see there?

I hope everyone is having a good week!

A la prochaine…


Verbs Conjugated With Etre

As we all know, there are verbs in French that are conjugated with avoir and être. Most verbs are conjugated with avoir, but there are a select few verbs that get conjugated with être, and for some it’s difficult to remember which ones get conjugated with être. These verbs are motion verbs, with the exception of the verbs “marcher” (to walk), and “quitter” (to leave/abandon).

If anyone reading this has ever taken a formal French class, you may have heard your professor speak of the acronym to help you remember which verbs get conjugated with être; this acronym is DR MRS VANDERTRAMP. If you’ve never heard of this, then here it is!

Devenir – to become

Revenir – to return/come back

Monter – to climb/go up/ascend

Rentrer – to return/re-enter/go home/go back

Sortir – to go out/go/leave/exit

Venir – to come/come along

Arriver – to arrive/turn up/show up

Naître – to be born/arise

Descendre – to descend/go down/move down/dismount

Entrer – to enter/go in/come in

Retourner – to return/go back/come back

Tomber – to fall/tumble/topple

Rester – to stay/remain

Aller – to go

Mourir – to die/pass away/perish

Partir – to leave/depart/head out/take off

Last post of the year! I wish you all the best as we all wrap up 2016. I will see you all in the new year with new weekly posts!

A la prochaine !


Lesson 19 – The Pluperfect Tense

Leçon 19 – Plus-que-parfait

The pluperfect tense is formed by using the imperfect of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) + the past participle.

The pluperfect corresponds in meaning to the English pluperfect: “I had done/I had been doing”; it refers to an action which happened at a point in the past earlier than that referred to by the previous verb in the past. French always uses the pluperfect to denote the appropriate time sequence.

Here are some examples:

Prendre (use with avoir)

  • J’avais pris – I had taken
  • Tu avais pris – You had taken
  • Il/Elle avait pris – He/She had taken
  • Nous avions pris – We had taken
  • Vous aviez pris – You had taken
  • Ils/Elles avaient pris – They had taken

Tomber (use with être)

  • J’étais tombé(e) – I had fallen
  • Tu étais tombé(e) – You had fallen
  • Il/Elle était tombé/e – He/She had fallen
  • Nous étions tombés/es – We had fallen
  • Vous étiez tombé/e/s/es – You had fallen
  • Ils/Elles étaient tombés/es – They had fallen


Here are some sentence samples using the pluperfect:

  • Je n’avais jamais été en Europe.
  • I had never been to Europe.
  • Elle était partie avant leur arrivée.
  • She had left before their arrival.


Have a great week!

Merci à vous !


Lesson 12 – Passé Composé

Leçon 12 – Passé Composé

French has several ways to express a past event. The most important and most useful tense form of the past tense in French is le passé composé. It corresponds to the English simple past tense (I saw, I had, I began), as well as to the English present perfect (I have finished, I have purchased, I have been).

Forming the Passé Composé

The passé composé of most verbs is formed by using the present tense of the verb avoir (to have) and the past participle. The past participle ends in –é for verbs that end in –er (parler, parlé), in –i for verbs that end in –ir (finir, fini), and in –u for verbs that end in –re (vendre, vendu).
Verbs ending in –er

  • j’ai visité – I visited, I have visited
  • tu as visité – you visited, you have visited
  • il/elle/on visité – he/she/we visited, have visited
  • nous avons visité – we visited, have visited
  • vous avez visité – you visited, have visited
  • ils/elles visité – they visited, have visited


Verbs ending in –ir

  • j’ai choisi – I chose, have chosen
  • tu as choisi – you chose, have chosen
  • il/elle/on choisi – he/she/we chose, have chosen
  • nous avons choisi – we chose, have chosen
  • vous avez choisi – you chose, have chosen
  • ils/elles ont choisi – they chose, have chosen


Verbs ending in –re

  • j’ai perdu – I lost, have lost
  • tu as perdu – you lost, have lost
  • il/elle/on – perdu he/she/we lost, have lost
  • nous avons perdu – we lost, have lost
  • vous avez perdu – you lost, have lost
  • ils/elles ont perdu – they lost, have lost

Verbs With Irregular Past Participles

Infinitive Past Participle

s’asseoir (to be seated) – assis (seated)

avoir (to have) – eu (had)

boire (to drink) – bu (drunk)

conduire (to conduct) – conduit (conducted)

connaître (to know) – connu (known)

courir (to run) – couru (run/ran)

croire (to believe) – cru (believed)

devoir (to owe; must) – dû (ought)

dire (to say, tell) – dit (said, told)

être (to be) – été (been, was)

écrire (to write) – écrit (wrote, written)

faire (to do, make) – fait (done, made)

lire (to read) – lu (read)

mettre (to put) – mis (put)

mourir (to die) – mort (died)

naître (to be born) – né (born)

offrir (to offer) – offert (offered)

ouvrir (to open) – ouvert (opened)

partir (to leave) – parti (left)

pouvoir (to be able to) – pu (been able to)

prendre (to take) – pris (taken, took)

recevoir (to receive) – reçu (received)

rire (to laugh) – ri (laughed)

savoir (to know) – su (known)

venir (to come) – venu (came)

voir (to see) – vu (seen, saw)

vouloir (to want) – voulu (wanted)


Verbs Which Use être as the Auxiliary Verb

The following verbs use être instead of avoir as the auxiliary verb to form the passé composé.

aller (to go)

arriver (to arrive)

descendre (to descend)

devenir (to become)

entrer (to enter)

monter (to go up)

mourir (to die)

naître (to be born)

partir (to leave)

rentrer (to return)

rester (to remain, to stay)

retourner (to return)

revenir (to come back)

sortir (to go out)

tomber (to fall)

venir (to come)


The past participle of verbs conjugated with être as the auxiliary verb change endings to agree in gender and number with the subject of the verb. If the subject is feminine singular, an –e is added to the past participle. If the subject is masculine plural, an –s is added, and if feminine plural, an –es is added. These changes do not affect pronunciation (except in the case of the verb mourir past participle- mort, morts, morte, mortes. The addition of the –e in the feminine singular and plural form causes the –t to be sounded).


Some examples:

  • je suis sorti (masculine) – I left, have left
  • je suis sortie (feminine) – I left, have left
  • tu es né (masculine) – you were born
  • tu es née (feminine) – you were born
  • ils sont descendus – (masculine plural) they descended, have descended
  • elles sont descendues – (feminine plural) they descended, have descended


Ils sont arrivés hier et sont allés tout de suite au consulat américain.

They arrived yesterday and went immediately to the American consulate.

Nous sommes restés longtemps.

We stayed a long time.

Verbs – Irregular Verbs

Verbs – Irregular Verbs Part 1

Many French verbs do not follow the conjugation patterns as regular French verbs. These are called irregular verbs.


Aller, avoir, être, faire, prendre


Most irregular verbs have infinitives ending in –ir, -re, or –oir. The only irregular verb with an infinitive ending in –er is allerto go.

Aller to go

Je vais

Tu vas

Il/Elle/On va

Nous allons

Vous allez

Ils/Elles vont

Aller is frequently followed by a phrase of place that begins with à or en.

  • Aller à la campagne – To go to the countryside
  • Aller à Paris – To go to Paris
  • Aller en classe – To go to class
  • Aller en Champagne – To go to Champagne (the region)

French does not distinguish between location and motion toward with geographical names.

  • Je suis à Paris – I’m in Paris
  • Je vais à Paris – I’m going to Paris

Note that the same preposition is used for both.

Stuff to know:

  1. Use en before feminine names of countries: en France, en Angleterre, en Allemagne, en Russie, en Chine.
  2. Use à + the definite article before masculine and plural names of countries: aux Etats-Unis, au Canada, au Mexique, au Portugal, au Danemark, aux Pays-Bas.
  3. Use à before names of cities: à Paris, à New York, à Londres, à Berlin, à Moscou.
  4. Use à + the definite article before names of cities that have a definite article as part of their name: au Havre, au Caire, à la Nouvelle-Orléans.


Avoir and être

I covered these topics in previous posts, so for the sake of not being redundant, you can head over here to refresh avoir, and here to refresh être.


The verb faireto do, make, is one of the most common verbs in French.

Faireto do, make

Je fais

Tu fais

Il/Elle/On fait

Nous faisons

Vous faites

Ils/Elles font

  • Faire de la chimie – to study/take chemistry
  • Faire la cuisine – to do the cooking
  • Faire la grasse matinée – to sleep late/oversleep
  • Faire une promenade – to take a walk
  • Quel temps fait-il ? – What’s the weather?
  • Il fait nuit – it’s dark out
  • Faire l’idiot – to act like an idiot


The verb prendre means to take. Prendre looks like a regular –re verb by its infinitive, but its conjugation is irregular. Note that the singular forms of conjugation resemble those of regular –re verbs.

Prendreto take

Je prends

Tu prends

Il/Elle/On prend

Nous prenons

Vous prenez

Ils/Elles prennent

Prendre expresses the consumption of food and drink. English uses have for this meaning, but French does not use avoir in this sense. Example:

  • J’ai du jus d’orange. – I have orange juice. (ex: in the refrigerator)
  • Je prends du jus d’orange. – I’m having/drinking orange juice.

Prendre is also used with the names of meals:

  • Je prends le petit déjeuner chez moi. – I have breakfast at home.

Prendre can also mean to buy, especially with food.

  • Elle prend son pain chez ce boulanger-là. – She buys her food at that baker’s.
  • Je descends prendre du pain. – I’m going out to buy some bread.
  • Nous prenons des billets de théâtre. – We’re buying theatre tickets.

Prendre is used in giving directions.

  • Prenez la deuxième rue à droite jusqu’à la place. – Turn right on the second street and keep on going up to the square.

Verbs – Etre

Verbs – Etre

A long time ago, my first French professor told my class that the most important verb to know in French is être, which means to be. If you don’t know how to conjugate être, you’ll have a difficult time learning how to speak simple sentences in French.

Je (I) suis (am)    [pronunciation – zhuh swee]

Tu (you, singular) es (are)    [pronunciation – to eh]

Il/Elle/On (he/she/one) est (is)    [pronunciation – eel/el/ohn eh]

Nous (we) sommes (are)    [pronunciation – noo sum]

Vous (you, plural; you, formal) êtes (are)    [pronunciation – vooz ett]

Ils/Elles (they, masculine & feminine plural) sont (are)    [pronunciation – eelz/ellez sohn]

The different uses of être

Some of these may be a bit advanced, and you may feel a bit overwhelmed reading them, but just read them over and get a feel for this verb.

être à quelque chose    to be at/into something

  • Etienne n’est pas là; il est au travail.  –  Etienne is not here; he is at work.
  • La maison est à dix kilomètres de Bordeaux.  –  The house is ten kilometers from Bordeaux.
  • Ce livre est à moi.  –  This book belongs to me.
  • Je suis à vous dans un instant!  –  I’ll be right with you!

être à + infinitif    to be to + infinitive

  • C’est une région à voir.  –  It is an area that is worth seeing.
  • Ton costume est à nettoyer.  –  Your suit needs to be cleaned.

être à quelqu’un de + infinif    to be up to somebody to + infinitive

  • C’était à elle de donner son avis.  –  It was up to her to give her opinion.
  • C’est à toi de jouer.  –  It is your turn to play.

être contre/pour quelque chose/quelqu’un    to be against/for something/somebody

  • Etes-vous contre la nouvelle loi?  –  Are you against the new law?