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Know French Verb Être and Its Conjugations

The French verb être is one complicated verb to deal with, and you’ll use it constantly in French. Follow our guide to using être, and you’ll make a big impact on your French language skills.

We created a Quiz, which is at the end of this article, so that you can test your knowledge on French Verb Être → OK, take me to the Quiz!

Être (to be) is among the most important verbs that you will ever learn. It shows up all the time in everyday conversation, including many idiomatic expressions. So, you definitely want to spend some time getting to know this essential French verb.

Être is used to talk about a state of being, to show ownership, and to tell one’s profession. The word also functions as an auxiliary verb for a number of French verbs.

Here, we provide a guide on how to effectively use the French verb être, along with conjugation tables to practice the different tenses and moods. You can also get help from our French tutors for any other guidance and support.

How to Use Être

Before we start conjugating, we’ll review the different ways to use être.

Express State of Being, Ownership, or Profession

  • To talk about a state of being: Je suis ravi de te voir. (I’m happy to see you.)
  • To show ownership: C’est ma maison. (It’s my house.)
  • To tell one’s profession: Je suis médecin. (I’m a doctor.)

Être as an Auxiliary Verb

There are two main ways the French verb être is used as an auxiliary verb:

1. Compound Tenses

Since être is an auxiliary verb, it’s used to form compound tenses along with the past participle of other French verbs: Je suis revenu au bureau il y a deux semaines. (I came back to the office two weeks ago.)

2. Passive Voice

Être is placed before a past participle when forming passive tenses in French.

a) Passive Compound Past (Passé composé au passif): This is done using the perfect tense of être followed by a past participle.

b) Passive Present (Présent au passif): Here, the present tense of être is followed by a past participle.

c) Passive Future (Futur au passif): This is the future tense of être followed by a past participle.

d) Passive Past Conditional (Passé conditionnel au passif): This is formed using the passive past conditional of être followed by a past participle.

You can use repetition and video below to help refine your pronunciation of different forms être:

How to Conjugate Être

The conjugation of être can be a bit challenging since it’s an irregular verb. Since irregular verbs don’t follow regular patterns, you’re required to internalize the fundamental concepts of conjugating être. You can find several key conjugations in the tables that follow.

Être Conjugated (Indicative Mood/Indicatif)

Present/Présent

je suis I am
tu es you are
il/elle est he/she is
nous sommes we are
vous êtes you are
ils/elles sont they are

Imperfect/Imparfait

j’étais I was being
tu étais you were being
il/elle était he/she was being
nous étions we were being
vous étiez you were being
ils/elles étaient they were being

Future/Futur 

je serai I will be
tu seras you will be
il/elle sera he/she will be
nous serons we will be
vous serez you will be
ils/elles seront they will be

Compound Past/Passé composé

j’ai été I was
tu as été you were
il/elle a été he/she was
nous avons été we were
vous avez été you were
ils/elles ont été they were

 

Simple Past/Passé simple

je fus I was
tu fus you were
il/elle fut he/she was
nous fûmes we were
vous fûtes you were
ils/elles furent they were

Pluperfect/Plus-que-parfait

j’avais été I had been
tu avais été you had been
il/elle avait été he/she had been
nous avions été we had been
vous aviez été you had been
ils/elles avaient été they had been

Past anterior/Passé antérieur

j’eus été I had been
tu eus été you had been
il/elle eut été he/she had been
nous eûmes été we had been
vous eûtes été you had been
ils/elles eurent été they had been

Future Perfect/Futur antérieur

j’aurai été I will have been
tu auras été you will have been
il/elle aura été he/she will have been
nous aurons été we will have been
vous aurez été you will have been
ils/elles auront été they will have been

Être Conjugated (Subjunctive Mood/Subjonctif)

Present/Présent

que je sois that I am
que tu sois that you are
qu’il/elle soit that he/she is
que nous soyons that we are
que vous soyez that you are
qu’ils/elles soient that they are

Imperfect/Imparfait

que je fusse that I would be
que tu fusses that you would be
qu’il/elle/on fût that he/she would be
que nous fussions that we would be
que vous fussiez that you would be
qu’ils/elles fussent that they would be

Past/Passé

que j’aie été that I have been
que tu aies été that you have been
qu’il/elle ait été that he/she has been
que nous ayons été that we have been
que vous ayez été that you have been
qu’ils/elles aient été that they have been

Pluperfect/Plus-que-parfait

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

 

Être Conjugated (Conditional Mood/Conditionnel)

Present/Présent

je serais I would be
tu serais you would be
il/elle serait he/she would be
nous serions we would be
vous seriez you would be
ils/elles seraient they would be

Past/Passé (1st form)

j’aurais été I would have been
tu aurais été you would have been
il/elle aurait été he/she would have been
nous aurions été we would have been
vous auriez été you would have been
ils/elles auraient été they would have been

Past/Passé (2nd form)

j’eusse été I would have been
tu eusses été you would have been
il/elle eût été he/she would have been
nous eussions été we would have been
vous eussiez été you would have been
ils/elles eussent été they would have been

Below are some exercises to help you understand how to use être.

1. Elle ____ italienne. (She is Italian.)

The correct answer is: Elle est italienne.

2. Vous ____ merveilleux. (You are wonderful.)

The correct answer is: Vous êtes merveilleux.

3. Il ____ adorable. (He is adorable.)

The correct answer is: Il est adorable.

4. Ils ____ determinés. (They are determined.)

The correct answer is: Ils sont déterminés.

5. Nous _____ tous des employés. (We are all employees.)

The correct answer is: Nous sommes tous des employés.

Conclusion

Invest some time and energy toward understanding this widely used French verb être. Also brush up on other similar core verbs such as faire, avoir, manger, dire, voir, pouvoir and many others. You don’t need to memorize them all perfectly in order to speak French effectively. You just have to keep reading French content and practice conversing and building sentences. Listen to audio drills as well, and you’ve got a recipe for great French communication skills!

Quiz: Test your knowledge of French Verb Être!

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etre conjugation, Know French Verb Être and Its Conjugations

French Verb Être

1 / 6

“Cela vous est conseillé.” means

2 / 6

“Pierre est chez le docteur car il est malade” means

3 / 6

“Cette orange est à toi.” means

4 / 6

“C’est à elle !” means

5 / 6

“Je suis en train de lire un magazine.” means

6 / 6

“J’ai été surpris par sa réaction.” means

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