How to use the verb 'to be' in French

Être (to be) – a very useful verb

Être (to be) is a very important verb, and it is used in many different situations, including ‎describing people and things, giving opinions, saying where you are, and to form other ‎tenses, such as the passé composé (the perfect tense).

  • Je suis grand - I am tall.‎
  • Tu es anglais? - Are you English?‎
  • C’est génial! - It’s great!‎
  • Je suis allé(e) au parc - I went to the park.

How to form être (to be) in the present tense

Être is an irregular verb, which means that it doesn’t follow the same pattern as regular ‎verbs in the present tense.‎

This is how to conjugate the I, you (singular, informal) and he/she/it forms of être in the ‎present tense:‎

EnglishFrenchExample
I amje suisJe suis écossais(e) - I am ‎Scottish.‎
you (singular, informal) ‎aretu esTu es très grand(e) - You are ‎very tall.‎
he / she / one isil / elle / on estElle est à la banque‎ - She is at ‎the bank.
it isc’estC’est incroyable! - It’s ‎incredible!‎

How to form être (to be) in the past

To give an opinion, describe someone or say where you were in the past, you can use the ‎imperfect tense of être. ‎

This is how to conjugate the I, you and he/she/it forms of être in the imperfect tense:‎

EnglishFrenchExample
I was ‎j’étais‎J’étais au supermarché - ‎ I was at the supermarket.‎
you weretu étaisTu étais avec moi - You were with me.‎‎
he / she wasil / elle étaitIl était malade - He was ill.‎
it was …‎c’était …‎C’était ennuyeux‎ - It was boring.‎‎

How to use être (to be) in the future

To give an opinion, describe someone or say where you are going to be in the future, you ‎use the correct form of aller (to go) plus the infinitive être (to be). This tense is called the ‎immediate future and is translated as 'I am going to be', 'you are going to be', 'he/she/it is ‎going to be'. ‎

You form it as follows:‎

EnglishFrenchExample
I am going to beje vais êtreJe vais être en retard! ‎- I’m going to be late!‎
you are going to betu vas êtreTu vas être au centre ‎sportif demain? ‎- Are you going to be at ‎the sports centre ‎tomorrow?‎
he / she is going to beil / elle va êtreElle va être professeur - She is going to be a ‎teacher.‎
it is going to beça va êtreÇa va être génial! ‎- It’s going to be great! ‎

Quiz

Find out how much you know about the verb 'to be' in French in this short quiz.

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