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:‎

EnglishFrench
I amje suis
you (singular, informal) ‎aretu es
he / she / one isil / elle / on est
it isc’est
we ‎arenous sommes
you (plural or polite) ‎arevous 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:‎

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.‎‎

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:‎

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.