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Home > French > Grammar > Past tenses


Past tenses


The perfect with être

A teacher writing some French on a blackboard.

From your earliest learning of French, you will have known that 'je suis allé' means 'I went'. This doesn't seem to fit the pattern you learn for making the perfect tense.

This is because a small number of French verbs make their perfect tense using être and not avoir together with the past participle.

Just to make life harder, the past participle gets treated like an adjective, and has to 'agree' with the subject: a boy would write 'je suis allé', and a girl would write 'je suis allée'. This will give you the pattern below:

je suis allé je suis allée
tu es allétu es allée
il est alléelle est allée
nous sommes allésnous some allées
vous êtes allésvous êtes allées
ils sont alléselles sont allées

NB: with vous, the past participle could have four different endings, depending on who 'vous' is referring to!

What are these verbs and how do you remember them?

Teenage girl looking aghast at a giant book she is reading.

Some people like to remember them by their first letters, using a trick word like 'dr and mrs vandertramp'. which contains the first letter of each verb: others like to remember that they are pairs of words, all referring to coming and going. Below is the list of verbs: learn them as soon as you can!

devenirto become
descendreto go down
resterto remain
entrerto go in
monterto climb, go up
rentrerto come home, to come back
retournerto come back
tomberto fall
sortirto go out
revenirto return
venirto come
allerto go
arriverto arrive
mourirto die
naîtreto be born
partirto leave


Two boys in conversation.

Class Clips

Video clip showing how to express a past tense opinion


Woman chatting on Ma France.

Ma France

Interactive French videos from BBC Languages

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