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How to know when to use "avoir" or "etre" in past tense?

Hi everyone. I'm really confused on when to know if I should use "avoir" or "etre" in past tense. I know that "etre" is used for motion verbs, but it's still super confusing. Do you have any tips?

April 26, 2020



There is a rather short list of verbs using être, but these are very common verbs. Some verbs can also take both avoir and être, with a different meaning.


A general rule is that être is used with intransitive and reflexive verbs, and avoir is used with others. It may not be complete, but it’s a start.


can you give an example of an intransitive verb and a reflexive verb?


Reflexive verb, for example, se laver. Je me suis lavé for first person. Although laver would not be conjugated with etre as it is not a verb of movement, since it is reflexive, it uses etre.


Thank you so much. That makes sense.


I wash myself. Je me lave.

We will meet again tomorrow. Nous nous rencontrons déjà demain.

I remember that. Je me souviens de ça.

The pronoun refers back to the subject.


An intransitive verb does not have a direct object for example the verb "sortir" can be transitive or intransitive; when it is used as a transitive verb it is conjugated with the auxiliary "avoir".

J'ai sorti ma voiture du garage. I took my car out of the garage

When it is used intransitively it is conjugated with the verb être.

Je suis sorti de la maison. I got out of the house



Etre is mostly used with verbs that require movement (e.g. descendre, ascendre, venir, aller, although there are exceptions like naitre, mourir, devenir). You use avoir with the other verbs :) (e.g. manger, etre, chanter). I hope that helps!


It does help. Thank you! And yes, I get confused with the exceptions like naitre and mourir. I was like: but that's not movement, why is it "etre" T.T!!


In a philosophical way, naître, mourir et devenir can be viewed as verbs of movement from one state of being to another...

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