Forming the perfect tense with être

The perfect tense is used to talk about something that happened in the past. It's an action that is completely finished. Some verbs take être to form the perfect tense.

You need to consider three things to form the perfect tense with être:

  • the correct part of the present tense of être
  • the past participle of the main verb
  • the correct agreement, ie is the subject pronoun feminine/masculine or plural?

Agreement

When you form the perfect tense with être, the past participle agrees with the subject of the verb (the person doing the action).

If the subject pronoun is feminine and singular, you need to add -e to the past participle of the main verb → allée.

If the subject pronoun is masculine plural, add -s to the past participle of the main verb → allés.

If the subject pronoun is feminine plural, add -es to the past participle of the main verb → allées.

So the perfect tense of aller (to go) is:

  • je suis allé(e)- I went
  • tu es allé(e)- you went (informal)
  • il est allé - he went
  • elle est allée- she went
  • on est allé(e)(s) - we went
  • nous sommes allé(e)s - we went
  • vous êtes allé(e)(s) - you went (formal, plural)
  • ils sont allés - they went (all male or mixed)
  • elles sont allées - they went (women only)
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Note that (e) is added if female.

To sum up, you must choose the correct part of être, add the past participle and add the correct agreement, for example:

  • je suis sortie de la banque - I left the bank (feminine)
  • je suis sorti de la banque - I left the bank (masculine)
  • il est né en 2007- he was born in 2007
  • elle est née en 2007 - she was born in 2007
  • nous sommes tombés par terre - we fell onto the ground (males or mixed)
  • elles sont tombées par terre - they fell onto the ground (only women)

Verbs that take être in the perfect tense

A limited number of verbs take être. Here is the list of the verbs used with être in the perfect tense. Try to memorise them as the MR R VANS TRAMPED verbs:

VerbEnglishPast participle
Monterto go upmonté
Retournerto returnretourné
Resterto stayresté
Venirto comevenu
Arriverto arrivearrivé
Naîtreto be born
Sortirto go outsorti
Tomberto falltombé
Rentrerto go back inrentré
Allerto goallé
Mourirto diemort
Partirto leaveparti
Entrerto enterentré
Descendreto go down/to get offdescendu
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