How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Sortir' (to Exit)

Family leaving house
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In French, sortir means "to exit," "to leave," or "to go out" and it is a frequently used irregular -ir verb. When you want to use it in conversational French, it's important to know how to conjugate it. This lesson will show you how to form the simplest conjugations and introduce you to a few different meanings of sortir.

Sortir Is Conjugated Like Partir and Dormir

Within irregular -ir verbs, there are some patterns. Two groups exhibit similar characteristics and conjugation patterns. There is also a large category of extremely irregular -ir verbs that follow no pattern.

Sortir lies in the first group and it does follow a particular pattern. Besides sortir, this group includes dormir (to sleep), mentir (to lie), partir (to leave), sentir (to feel), servir (to serve) and all of their derivatives, such as repartir (to divide).

All of these verbs drop the last letter of the radical (root) in the singular conjugations. For instance, in first person singular of sortir is je sors (no "t") while the first person plural is nous sortons (retains the "t" from the root). The more you can recognize these patterns, the easier it will be to remember conjugations.

Generally speaking, most French verbs ending in -mir-tir, or -vir are conjugated this way. 

Simple Conjugations of the Irregular French Verb 'Sortir'Sortir

The simplest conjugations of sortir are in the indicative mood. These are the present, future, and past (imperfect) tenses that you will use most often in French conversation and they state the action as a fact.

Using the chart, pair the subject pronoun with the proper tense. When you want to say, "I am going out" you will use je sors and for "we will leave" you will say, nous sortirons. If you practice them in simple sentences it will help you memorize each.

Present Future Imperfect
je sors sortirai sortais
tu sors sortiras sortais
il sort sortira sortait
nous sortons sortirons sortions
vous sortez sortirez sortiez
ils sortent sortiront sortaient

The present participle of sortir is sortant. This was formed by simply adding -ant to the verb stem.

There are a few compound tenses used in French, but we'll concentrate on a simple and common one for this lesson. The passé composé is a form of the past tense and for sortir it is formed using the auxiliary verb être and the past participle sorti. For example, "we exited" is nous sommes sorti.

The following forms are used with less frequency, though they can be useful as you study more French. When the act of "exiting" is in some way questionable, for instance, you can use either the subjunctive or the conditional. Do be aware that these two verb moods have separate rules for using them.

In rare circumstances and particularly in formal writing, you might also encounter or use the passé simple or the imperfect subjunctive.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
je sorte sortirais sortis sortisse
tu sortes sortirais sortis sortisses
il sorte sortirait sortit sortît
nous sortions sortirions sortîmes sortissions
vous sortiez sortiriez sortîtes sortissiez
ils sortent sortiraient sortirent sortissent

There are also times when you simply want to tell someone to "Get out!" On these occasions, you can turn to the imperative verb mood which does not require a subject pronoun. Instead, you can just tell them "Sors !"

(tu) sors
(nous) sortons
(vous) sortez

Using Sortir in French

Sortir essentially means the opposite of entrer (to enter) and the meaning changes slightly depending on what follows it. But the most common meaning is "to go out" and "to exit or leave" as in:

  • Je veux sortir ce soir. - I want to go out tonight.
  • Nous ne sommes pas sortis depuis deux mois. - We haven't gone out for two months.

When followed by a preposition or a direct object, sortir takes on a slightly different and more specific meaning.

  • sortir de means "to get out of" or "to leave": As in, "Tu dois sortir de l'eau. (You need to get out of the water.) and "Sortez de chez moi !" (Get out of my house!). It can also be used for something like, "D'où sort-il ?" (Where has he been?).
  • sortir de (informal) means "to have just done something": As in, "On sort de manger." (We just ate.) and "Il sortait de finir" (He had just finished).
  • sortir en / à means "to go out in / on": As in, "Nous allons sortir en voiture." (We're going to go out in the car / go for a drive.) and "Je veux sortir à bicyclette." (I want to go out on my bike / go for a bike ride.).
  • sortir en + present participle means "to ___ out": As in, "Pourquoi est-il sorti en courant ?" (Why did he run out?) and "Elle sort en boitant." (She is limping out.).
  • sortir par means "to get out by means of": As in, "Tu ne peux pas sortir par la porte." (You can't get out through the door.) and "L'oiseau est sorti par la fenêtre." (The bird went out the window.).
  • sortir + direct object means "to take out": As in, "Tu dois sortir le chien ce soir." (You need to take the dog out tonight.) and "J'ai sorti la voiture du garage." (I took the car out of the garage.).

    Auxiliary Verbs for  Sortir

    In the compound tenses and moods, sortir may be conjugated with être or avoir. Which is used depends on whether sortir is used intransitively or transitively.

    When sortir is used intransitively, the auxiliary verb is être:

    • Es-tu sorti hier soir ? - Did you go out last night?
    • Je serai sorti avant midi. - I will have gone out before noon.

    When sortir is used transitively, the auxiliary verb is avoir:

    • Nous avions déjà sorti des vêtements quand... - We had already taken some clothes out when...
    • J'ai sorti la voiture du garage. - I took the car out of the garage.

    Sortir as a Pronominal Verb

    As a pronominal verb, se sortir de can take on even more meanings. For instance, se sortir de means "to get out of" or "to extricate oneself,"

    • J'espère qu'il va pouvoir se sortir de cette situation. - I hope he'll be able to get out of that situation.
    • Je me suis sorti d'un mauvais pas. - I got out of a tight spot.

    S'en sortir means to survive/get through a dangerous or difficult situation:

    • Je ne sais pas s'il va s'en sortir. - I don't know if he's going to make it / pull through.
    • Tu t'en es bien sorti ! - You've done really well!

    Common French Expressions With Sortir 

    There are plenty of idiomatic expressions using sortir. Keep in mind that you will need to conjugate sortir in many of these.

    • sortir indemne d'un choc - to exit unscathed
    • sortir de l'imagination - being the result of creativity, inspiration
    • sortir de sa cachette - get out of hiding
    • s'en sortir - to extract oneself from a difficult situation
    • Sortir de l'ordinaire - to stand out from the ordinary
    • Le petit oiseau va sortir. - The photo is about to be taken.