You're right, "passer" only takes etre as an auxiliary verb when it means certain things (passing by, going by), but it takes avoir for some of its other meanings (give, transmit). (Just a note, the auxiliary verb is the "helping verb," not the main verb itself; in the passé composé, the auxiliary verbs are "avoir" and "etre").
Is it about whether "passer" is used intransitively (aux être) or transitively (aux avoir)? My impression is that être is never used for verbs used transitively (except if reflexive?).
"passer" seems to be fairly unique in that some sources say you can use either auxiliary when used intransitively; the only other such word in my grammar book is "accourir". If so, how to choose which auxiliary?
A number of verbs expressing movements do use the auxiliary être, like "aller, venir, tomber, passer, monter, descendre...".
Please take a look at this: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/etreverbs.htm
As soon as the verb has a direct object, the auxiliary will be avoir:
- j'ai entré la clé (I entered the key)
- j'ai rentré les chaises (I brought the chairs back in)
- j'ai monté l'escalier (I went up the stairs)
- j'ai descendu la colline (I walked/drove down the hill).
- j'ai passé l'examen (I took the exam); j'ai passé trois heures (I spent 3 hours); j'ai passé l'âge (I am beyond age)... this one is tricky: http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais-anglais/passer/661830
Some verbs do not have the ability to become transitive and others, even derived "venir" do not use "être" unless some of them are used in passive.
- venir (être), revenir (être), devenir (être) parvenir (être), se souvenir (être), intervenir (être), survenir (être)
- contrevenir à (avoir), circonvenir (avoir); prévenir (avoir), convenir (avoir), subvenir à (avoir)
what it wanted to say is: "U will pass three hours here. For being a know-it-all imma swap all of ur passe compose sentences for imparfait and claim it's cause of context. Bwahah-hoo-hoo-ahhah! [mad owl laughter]"
And we all know it's because you made the owl angry, but no one can help :(
être = to be
avoir = to have
When forming the French compound tense, you mostly use auxiliary "avoir". But a number of verbs are naturally constructed with auxiliary "être": movement verbs (passer, monter, descendre, aller, venir) and all reflexive verbs (se laver, se reposer, se taire...).
Duolingo is not a person in a room examining each answer, it's a computer program which can only allow for a certain amount of leeway. In many cases, jumbling up the word order of a sentence changes the meaning, so Duo doesn't always allow for that.
I sympathise with trying to learn one foreign language through the medium of another! Must be very difficult.
It is not a strictly literal nor idiomatic translation. You might have a point if the sentence said ""J'ai passé ici trois heures." in French but it does not. It says ""J'ai passé trois heures ici" with "ici" at the end of the sentence. "I have spent three hours here" is both a literal and idiomatic rendering of the French sentence.
Also, and I'm not a grammar expert so I may be wrong or not explaining it correctly, "I have spent here three hours" is a little ambiguous. It makes it seem as if "here" could be the object of the sentence. It could reads as if "here" is the thing you spent instead of spending "three hours" at a certain place ("here").
I probably didn't explain myself correctly but word order is more strict in English than it is in other languages and in this case the word order in French and English match (as far as I can tell).
I can't quite agree. I would never say "I stayed three hours here." It doesn't sound natural to me. I have the impression that "spent" has more to do with the length of time, and "stayed" more to do with the place. So I would likely use a different word order: "I stayed here for three hours." There, that sounds more natural. Then the emphasis is on WHERE I stayed, not on how long. In the former case, the French probably would used rester, as you say.
To pass (passer) is also used in English in this sense: To pass the time. It's related to time, which we "pass" or "spend," not to location - a place in which we "stay."
I would say, "I've waited," and I would only use "I've spent" if I'm referring to time like money, like if I felt I wasted time/money at an arcade.
"I've waited three hours here already!" versus "I've spent three hours here playing Tetris."
If I ever did say "I've stayed," it would be for how long I lived or stayed at a physical place.
"I've stayed at Comfort Inn three times, unfortunately."
In my experience of speaking and hearing English, the most common expression is "I spent three hours here." "Passed" is used in "I passed the time reading a magazine" etc.
"Stay" is a slightly different concept and has other French words that would be used, eg rester or demeurer. Maybe séjourner.