How to use the verb 'to be' (être)
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 écossais? - Are you Scottish?
- C’est génial! - It’s great!
- Je suis allé(e) au parc - I went to the park.
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:
|I am||je suis|
|you (singular, informal) are||tu es|
|he / she / one is||il / elle / on est|
|we are||nous sommes|
|you (plural or polite) are||vous êtes|
|they are (masculine or mixed group)||ils sont|
|they are (feminine group)||elles sont|
Using être to talk about 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:
|I was ||j’étais||J’étais au supermarché - I was at the supermarket.|
|you were||tu étais||Tu étais avec moi - You were with me.|
|he / she was||il / elle était||Il était malade - He was ill.|
|it was …||c’était …||C’était ennuyeux - It was boring.|
Using être to talk about 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:
|I am going to be||je vais être||Je vais être en retard! - I’m going to be late!|
|you are going to be||tu vas être||Tu vas être au centre sportif demain? - Are you going to be at the sports centre tomorrow?|
|he / she is going to be||il / elle va être||Elle va être professeur - She is going to be a teacher.|
|it is going to be||ça va être||Ça va être génial! - It’s going to be great! |
Find out how much you know about the verb 'to be' in French in this short quiz.