Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 40): le verbe – être (l’usage et les expressions)


Source: french.about.com

Être is one of the most common French verbs. It is irregular in conjugation and literally means “to be.” Être is also used in some idiomatic expressions and as an auxiliary verb for compound tenses and the passive voice.

Être means “to be” in many sense that this verb is used in English.

It is used with adjectives, nouns, and adverbs to describe a temporary or permanent state of being. For example:

Il est beau. He is handsome.
Je suis à Paris. I’m in Paris.
Nous sommes français. We’re French.
Il est là-bas. He’s over there.

Être is used to describe someone’s profession; however, note that the indefinite article is not used in this construction. For example:

Mon prère est avocat. May father is a lawyer.
Je suis étudiant. I am a student.

Être is found in the impersonal expressions c’est and il est. For example:

C’est difficile à décider. It’s hard to decide.
Il est possible qu’il mange avec nous. It’s possible that he’ll eat with us.

Être can be used with a preposition à plus a stressed pronoun to indicate possession. For example:

Ce livre est à moi. This is my book.
À qui est cet argent? C’est à Paul. Whose money is this? It’s Paul’s.

More expressions with être such as:

ça y est – that’s it, it’s done
c’est ca – that’s it, that’s right
c’est / on est / nous somme + date – it’s (date)
en être – to take part in
est-ce (que) – no literal translation; this expression is used to ask questions
être de – to be at/in (figuratively)
être en train de + infinitive – to be (in the process of) + present participle
n’est-ce pas? – right?, isn’t that so?
soit – so be it, that is
soit…soit… – either…or…

There are a number of English “to be” expressions which are translated in French by avoir (to have). For example:

avoir froid – to be cold
avoir raison – to be right
avoir XX ans – to be XX years old

When talking about the weather, French uses the verb faire (to do/make) rather than être. For example:

Quel temps fait-il? How’s the weather?
Il fait beau. It’s nice out.
Il fait du vent. It’s windy.

Être is the auxiliary for some verbs in the compound tenses. For example:

Je suis allé en France. I went to France.
Nous étions déjà sortis. We had already left.
Il serait venu si…He would have come if…

Être is used to form the passive voice. For example:

La voiture est lavée. The car is washed.
Il est respecté de tout le monde. He is respected by everyone.

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One Response to Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 40): le verbe – être (l’usage et les expressions)

  1. Pingback: Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 80): Top French Verbs « coffeechat with perkyperps

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