French Verbs That Take 'Être' as Their Auxiliary Verb

Verbs That Use 'Être' to Help Form Compound Tenses

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"Elles sont allées." (They went.). sturti / Getty Images

An auxiliary verb, or helping verb, is a conjugated verb used in front of another verb in compound tenses in order to indicate the mood and tense of the verb.

In French, the auxiliary verb is either avoir or être. All French verbs are classified by which auxiliary verb they take, and they use the same auxiliary verb in all compound tenses. Most French verbs use avoir, fewer use être. The following is a list of verbs (and their derivatives) that require être:

  • aller > to go
  • arriver > to arrive
  • descendre > to descend / go downstairs 
    redescendre > to descend again
  • entrer > to enter 
    rentrer > to re-enter
  • monter > to climb 
    remonter > to climb again
  • mourir > to die
  • naître > to be born
    renaître > to be reborn, born again)
  • partir > to leave
    repartir > to leave again
  • passer > to pass
  • rester > to stay
  • retourner > to return
  • sortir > to go out
    ressortir > to go out again
  • tomber > to fall
    retomber > to fall again
  • venir > to come
    devenir > to become
    parvenir > to reach, achieve
    revenir > to come again, come back

These are all intransitive verbs that communicate a certain kind of movement. You do get used to these verbs over time and one day you'll be able to sense whether to use être or avoir without even having to think about it. 

1. In addition to the above, all pronominal verbs use être as the auxiliary verb:

    Je me suis levé. > I got up.
    Il s'est rasé. > He shaved.

2. For all verbs conjugated with être, the past participle has to agree with the subject in gender and number in all of the compound tenses ( learn more):

    Il est allé. > He went.

    Elle est allée. > She went.
    Ils sont allés. > They went.    Elles sont allées. > They went.

3. Verbs are conjugated with être because they are intransitive (have no direct object). However, six of these verbs can be used transitively (with a direct object), and when this happens, they need avoir as the auxiliary verb.

There are certain French verbs which require être as the auxiliary verb in the passé composé and other compound tenses, and students sometimes have a hard time remembering them. There are 14 common verbs plus numerous derivatives which take être, and their derivatives usually do too. For example, entrer is an être verb, as is its derivative rentrer. Generally speaking, all of the verbs indicate a particular kind of movement, either literal or figurative - lesson on être verbs.


 

Intransitive verbs

One very important thing to remember is that verbs only use être when they are intransitive (do not have a direct object):
  • Je suis passé à huit heures vs J'ai passé la maison.

    Je suis monté avant lui vs J'ai monté la valise.
I can promise you that eventually you will instinctively know which verbs take être, but in the meantime, you might want to try one of these mnemonic devices.
 

La Maison d'être

The French teach être verbs with a visual: La Maison d'être. Draw a house with a door, stairs, windows, etc. and then label it with the être verbs. For example, put someone on the stairs going up ( monter) and another going down ( descendre).
There are three acronyms that are commonly used to remember être verbs. Strangely, none of them includes passer, which is an être verb when used intransively.
 

DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP

This is perhaps the most popular mnemonic device for être verbs in the United States. Personally, I find DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP redundant since it includes some derivatives, but if it works for you, go for it.
  • Devenir
    Revenir
    &
    Monter
    Rester
    Sortir

    Venir
    Aller
    Naître
    Descendre
    Entrer
    Rentrer
    Tomber
    Retourner
    Arriver
    Mourir
    Partir
     

ADVENT

Each letter in ADVENT stands for one of the verbs and its opposite, plus one extra verb, for a total of thirteen.
  • Arriver - Partir
    Descendre - Monter
    Venir - Aller
    Entrer - Sortir
    Naître - Mourir
    Tomber - Rester
    Retourner
     

    DRAPERS VAN MMT13

    Each letter in DRAPERS VAN MMT stands for one of the 13 verbs.
    • Descendre
      Rester
      Aller
      Partir
      Entrer
      Retourner
      Sortir

      Venir
      Arriver
      Naître

      Mourir
      Monter
      Tomber
      ---------
      13 total verbs
       

    Tips from teachers

    On the Profs de français forum, some teachers stated that acronyms don't work - their students remember the letters, but not the verb each one signifies. So they use music or poetry to help students learn and remember être verbs:
    1. I have the students sing the past participles of the verbs to the tune of "Ten Little Indians." It's a good way to remember which verbs take être, plus it helps them remember the irregular past participles:
    allé, arrivé, venu, revenu,
    entré, rentré, descendu, devenu,
    sorti, parti, resté, retourné,
    monté, tombé, né et mort.

    2. I have my students memorize the verbs in a specific order: the 8 -er verbs, which they can learn in about 2 minutes in class. Next is descendre, because it's the opposite of monter. Then the -ir verbs, the venir family, and the beginning and end of life. Passer par brings up the grand finale. Most classes can learn them all in less than 5 minutes. And then I put it all together into a little poem:
    Aller, arriver, entrer, rentrer, rester, retourner, tomber, monter,
    descendre,
    partir, sortir,
    venir, devenir, revenir,
    naître, mourir, et passer par.
    Ces dix-sept verbes sont conjugués avec le verbe être au passé composé. Yé !

    Sometimes I do it in a sing-song voice or rap it. I've been known to put on a pair of shades; it seems to make an impression and get them all into it. My students seem to be able to remember this order with no difficulty whatsoever, and I see them scanning their quizzes, silently reciting the order of verbs, marking an asterisk next to the ones that need être, and being quite successful. When I have had those students in more advanced classes through the years, they have remembered my formula. If they slip, all it takes is a gentle reminder: Aller, arriver... and to have them all join in to reinforce the verbs. I've run into students many years later who could still recall them all and wanted to recite them for me.
    Keep reading
       Introduction to être verbs   Remembering être verbs
       Être verbs used transitively   Test on être verbsRelated lessons
       Repeating auxiliary verbs    Le passé
        Compound tenses

    Verbs that require être in the passé composé and other compound tenses are intransitive - that is, they have no direct object. But some of them can be used transitively (with a direct object), and when this happens, these verbs need avoir as the helping verb. In addition, there is a slight change in meaning.

    descendre
       Il est descendu. - He went down(stairs).
       Il a descendu l'escalier. - He went down the stairs.


       Il a descendu la valise. - He took the suitcase down.

    monter
       Il est monté. - He went up(stairs).
       Il a monté la côte. - He went up the hill.
       Il a monté les livres. - He took the books up.

    passer
       Je suis passé devant le parc. - I went by the park.
       J'ai passé la porte. - I went through the door.
       J'ai passé une heure ici. - I spent an hour here.

    rentrer
       Je suis rentré. - I came home.
       J'ai rentré les chaises. - I brought the chairs inside.

    retourner
       Elle est retournée en France. - She has returned to France.
       Elle a retourné la lettre. - She returned / sent back the letter.

    sortir
       Elle est sortie. - She went out.
       Elle a sorti la voiture - She took the car out.


    Keep reading
       Introduction to être verbs
       Remembering être verbs
       Être verbs used transitively
       Test on être verbs


    Related lessons
       Repeating auxiliary verbs
       Le passé
       Compound tenses

    When using more than one verb in the passé composé or another compound tense, you can - but do not always have to - repeat the auxiliary verb in front of each past participle. Whether you have to repeat the auxiliary depends on whether the main verbs take the same auxiliary verb. If they are all avoir verbs, all être verbs, or all pronominal verbs, you don't need to include the auxiliary in front of each one.


     

    Verbs with the same auxiliary

    When you want to say "I ate and drank," you need to consider the auxiliary verb that manger and boire require. Since they both take avoir, you can leave off the auxiliary from the second verb:
        J'ai mangé et bu
    Or you can repeat the auxiliary, with or without the subject pronoun:    J'ai mangé et ai bu
         or    J'ai mangé et j'ai bu
    To say "I left at noon and got home at midnight," you need être for both verbs, so you don't need to repeat the auxiliary:
        Je suis parti à midi et rentré à minuit
    But you can also say    Je suis parti à midi et suis rentré à minuit
         or    Je suis parti à midi et je suis rentré à minuit
    The same basic rule applies when you're using only pronominal verbs, as in "I got up and got dressed":    Je me suis levé et habillé.
    However, if you want to repeat the auxiliary of pronominal verbs, you must also repeat the reflexive pronoun:
        Je me suis levé et me suis habillé
        Je me suis levé et je me suis habillé
       xxx "Je me suis levé et suis habillé" xxx
     

    Verbs with different auxiliaries

    When you have a sentence with verbs that need different auxiliaries, or with a mix of pronominal and non-pronominal verbs, you are required use the various auxiliaries in front of each verb. You may also repeat the subject pronoun:
        J'ai travaillé et suis allé à la banque
        J'ai travaillé et je suis allé à la banque
       I worked and went to the bank    Je me suis levé et suis descendu
        Je me suis levé et je suis descendu
       I got up and went downstairs    Il a mangé, est parti et s'est couché tôt
        Il a mangé, il est parti et il s'est couché tôt
       He ate, left, and went to bed early 

    Verbs with some of the same auxiliaries

    If you have some verbs with one auxiliary and some verbs with another, you can still drop the shared auxiliaries when they are alone in the clause (that is, when the clause has only avoir verbs, être verbs, or pronominal verbs):
        On a dansé et chanté, et puis (on) est allé à une autre boîte
       We danced and sang, and then went to another club    As-tu fait ton lit et nettoyé ta chambre, ou t'es-tu douché et habillé ?
       Did you make your bed and clean your room, or did you take a shower and get dressed? 

    When in doubt...

    Remember that it's never wrong to repeat the auxiliary verb (though overdoing it can make your French sound a bit stilted). But it is wrong not to use the different auxiliaries if you have different types of verbs.
     

    Related lessons

       Être verbs
        Le passé