All About Être

Everything you need to know about the irregular French verb être

Être is one of the most common French verbs. It is irregular in conjugation and literally means "to be." Être is also used in some idiomatic expressions and as an auxiliary verb for compound tenses and the passive voice.

To Be

Être means "to be" in many senses that this verb is used in English.

1. It is used with adjectives, nouns, and adverbs to describe a temporary or permanent state of being:

   Il est beau - He is handsome

   Je suis à Paris - I'm in Paris

   Nous sommes français - We're French

   Il est là-bas - He's over there

Être is used to describe someone's profession; however, note that the indefinite article is not used in this construction in French:

   Mon père est avocat - My father is a lawyer

   Je suis étudiant - I'm a student

3. Être can be used with the preposition à plus a stressed pronoun to indicate possession:

   Ce livre est à moi
   This is my book.

   - À qui est cet argent ? - C'est à Paul.
   - Whose money is this? - It's Paul's.

4. Expressions with être


There are a number of English "to be" expressions which are translated in French by avoir (to have):

   avoir froid - to be cold
   avoir raison - to be right
   avoir xx ans - to be xx years old
   more expressions with avoir

When talking about the weather, French uses the verb faire (to do/make) rather than être:

   Quel temps fait-il ? - How's the weather?
   Il fait beau - It's nice out
   Il fait du vent - It's windy
   more expressions with faire

Être as an Auxiliary Verb

Être is the auxiliary for some verbs in the compound tenses:

   Je suis allé en France - I went to France

   Nous étions déjà sortis - We had already left

   Il serait venu si... - He would have come if...

2. Être is used to form the passive voice:

   La voiture est lavée - The car is washed

   Il est respecté de tout le monde - He is respected by everyone


Present tense

   je suis
   tu es
   il est
   nous sommes
   vous êtes
   ils sont

All tenses

Most common French verbs