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Le passé composé: the explanation of how to choose the auxiliary verb

TheMotley
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The passé composé is the most common French past tense, therefore you'll need it every time you want to write in the past.

Luckily, you only have two auxiliary verbs to pick up from (avoir and être) but how to choose?

Firstly, most of French verbs use the auxiliary verb avoir, whilst the auxiliary être is used in some particular cases.

e.g.

J'ai fait mes devoirs (I did me homework)

Elles ont gagné le match (They won the game)

But when to use the auxiliary être?

In most of the cases, the auxiliary verb être is used with pronominal verbs (se taire, se laver, se rencontrer, s'aimer...etc) and action verbs (sortir, entrer, aller, revenir, tomber...etc).

e.g.

Hier, Je ne suis pas allé à l'école (Yesterday, I didn't go to school)

Il s'est lavé les mains avant de manger (He washed his hands before eating)

! With the auxiliary *être*, the conjugated verb accords with the gender and type of the phrase subject.

e.g.

Elles sont allées à l'école (They went to school)

Vous vous êtes levés . (You woke up)

! All transitive verbs uses avoir as auxiliary verb. Some verbs that generally use être can be transitive in some cases and the most common example for that is the verbe tomber.

e.g.

transitive: Il a tombé sa veste (He dropped his jacket)

intransitive: La nuit est tombée (The night fell)

I hope this was helpful.

4 years ago

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/SDPhil
SDPhil
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DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP is a popular mnemonic that I use for remembering the "être" verbs.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aaron-mendonca

(Devenir Revenir

Monter Rester Sortir

Venir Aller Naître Descendre Entrer Rentrer Tomber Retourner Arriver Mourir Partir)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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Actually, Passer and Descendre depend on the context. And also tomber, but I've explained it in the thread.

e.g.1

Je suis passé chez toi hier soir, mais tu n'étais pas là.

J'ai passé mon temps sur l'ordinateur.

e.g.2

Je suis descendu à la cave pour chercher une bonne bouteille.

J'ai descendu les escaliers à toute vitesse, j'ai bien failli tomber.

<h1>Bon courage!</h1>
4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarshaClarke

Passer?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aaron-mendonca

Yup passer is in there as well, I believe.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Aman7842

yes it is

5 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kikiinparis

Most of my French teachers use that mnemonic as well - it can be quite helpful in memorizing all of the être verbs.

7 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DanielZhao1

I don't know how much this might help, but here's how I remember which verbs take être:

  1. The ~16 verbs that every French student should memorize, below. I remember them as ADVENT + the opposite of each, in addition to retourner, and derivatives of any of these:

A: arriver (arrive) + partir (leave)

D: descendre (descend) + monter (go up)

V: venir (come) + aller (go)

E: entrer (enter) + sortir (go out)

N: naitre (born) + mourir (die)

T: tomber (fall) + rester (stay)

Retourner (return)]

Derivatives:

rentrer (reenter) revenir (come back) devenir (become) parvenir (reach/achieve)

Notice that each of the ADVENT verbs has an opposite, which helps in memorization; additionally, by "derivative", I mean any verb that stems from the original verb (so revenir, devenir, parvenir are all derivatives of "venir").

  1. Any reflexive verb that indicates an action being done your one's own body — also known as pronominal verbs. (i.e. se lever, se laver, etc.)

  2. Reciprocal verbs or any verb that is made reciprocal (e.g. ourselves, yourselves) by adding a reciprocal pronoun.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Aman7842

my french teacher also says that

5 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeandAlembert

That was super. Thanks!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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You're welcome! I try :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/suesieb
suesieb
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Merci!!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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je t'en prie :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/adrienne58

A French teacher told me once - with passé compose, use etre for: "The comings and goings, the ups and downs, and the beginnings and endings of life".

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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That's right!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/patman174

I'm trying to find out- what do they mean when they say that aller can't be transitive. Je suis allé au collège. How is this transitive when it clearly has an object?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/refusenick
refusenick
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Very helpful, thanks.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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you're welcome :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Erkte
Erkte
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Good, but I'd just like to know: is there any difference in the choice of auxiliaries in french and in italian? It would simplify my mental patterns quite a lot :/

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Persephone14

They are quite similar and the superman vs cats mnemonic for italian uses a lot of the same words as french (italian version obviously). A big difference though is that être takes avoir in french but takes essere in italian

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Erkte
Erkte
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Merci, mais je ne connais pas cette système mnémonique que tu dis. Selon wikipédia (version italienne) l'usage de les verbes auxiliaires est quasiment le même dans les deux langues, mais avec ces exceptions:

  • les verbes être, coûter, durer, manquer, plaire, vivre
  • les auxiliaires modals

qui exigent avoir en français (au lieu de essere en italien). Spero che ci sia qualche italiano talmente pazzo da studiare il francese attraverso l'inglese cui possa interessare l'informazione!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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Sorry, I don't speak Italian I can't help you with that :s you seem to be a Southern Italian though, aren't you? :p

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Erkte
Erkte
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How do you know that? You're giving me the creeps :D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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I think I am a psychic! Beware! x)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/prky
prky
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I should know this, but what's a transitive verb?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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A transitive verb in French is a verb that requires one or more direct objects. This contrasts with intransitive verbs, which do not require objects.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/prky
prky
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Merci!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMotley
TheMotley
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je t'en prie :) (de rien is also valid)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Aman7842

Was very helpful. Got 98 on 100 all because of you. Thanks.

5 months ago