French The Verb "to be"


The French irregular verb être, "to be," is one of the most important verbs in the French language. In this module, you will find the conjugations of être in the present tense. Être is not only common because it means "to be", but also because many verbs use être as an auxiliary verb to form compound tenses such as passé composé.  We will not discuss these other verb forms at the moment, but know that this is one verb you want to know inside and out!

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Below is a table that shows how to conjugate the verb to be, or être, in the present tense.

Je suisI amFirst person singular
Tu esYou areSecond person singular
Il/Elle/On estHe/She/One isThird person singular (masc/fem/neutral)
Nous sommesWe areFirst person plural
Vous êtesYou areSecond person plural or formal second person singular
Ils/Elles sontThey areThird person plural (masc/fem)

What to know about être:

  • Être is known as an irregular verb. An irregular verb means that when conjugating it, there is no regular pattern to follow.
  • The unconjugated form of any verb (in this case, être) is called an infinitive.


  • As discussed in Module 2, the subject pronoun On can have either a singular or plural meaning in English, yet it is always conjugated in the third person singular form.That means that On est can mean either “One is…” or “We are…”

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Additional Topics

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French The Pronoun "en"

The adverbial pronoun en can replace a quantity, a place, or the object of the preposition de. This little word has many possible translations: any, one, some, about it / them, of it / them.

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The French Pronoun Y

Y replaces or refers back to an adverb phrase of place or of location. In its simplest form, it means just there (in the meaning of in that place) It can also mean in something, on something, under something, beside something, etc.

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French Relative Pronouns Qui vs Que

In French, direct object pronouns are used for verbs which aren’t followed by prepositions: Me (me), te (you), nous (us), vous (you), le (him or it), la (her or it), les (them). For example, Je vois le garçon. Je le vois. (I see the boy. I see him).

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.