Why do some verbs take 'etre' in the perfect tense? And how can I memorise them?

The majority of French verbs are take a conjugated form of the verb 'avoir' (to have) when forming the perfect tense, similarly to English. However, there is an important minority of verbs that use a conjugated form of the verb 'etre' (to be) when forming this tense. These verbs are called intransitive verbs, meaning that they do not take a direct object. These verbs often refer to a change in state or place, and although there aren't many, they are very important! 

For example;
J'ai vu la montre - I've seen the watch (watch = direct object)
Je suis descendu - I went down (no direct object) 

Fortunately there's a nice trick to memorise these verbs. All you have to do is meet MRS VAN DER TRAMP, the agreable Dutch lady who never objects! 

Monter --> monté (went up)
Retourner --> retourné (returned)
Sortir --> sorti (went out)

Venir --> venu (came)
Arriver --> arrivé (arrived)
Naître --> né (was born)

Descendre --> descendu (went down)
Entrer --> entré (entered)
Rester --> resté (stayed)

Tomber --> tombé (fell)
Rentrer --> rentré (went back in)
Aller --> allé (went)
Mourir --> mort (died)
Partir --> parti (left)

Henry  P. Mentoring French tutor, GCSE French tutor, Mentoring Spanis...

1 year ago

Answered by Henry , a GCSE French tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Ignacio M. A Level Spanish tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Spanish ...
View profile
£18 /hr

Ignacio M.

Degree: Aerospace Engineering (Masters) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: French, Spanish


“I am a Spanish Aerospace Engineering student at Bristol University.This is my first time tutoring but I am confident since I believe I have great communication skills and I truly enjoy sharing my knowledge.I was born in Bilbao (Basq...”

Michael J. GCSE Biology tutor, A Level Biology tutor, GCSE Chemistry ...
View profile
£18 /hr

Michael J.

Degree: Medicine (Bachelors) - Oxford, The Queen's College University

Subjects offered: French, Chemistry+ 1 more


“Hi! My name is Michael, and I'm a medical student at Oxford University! I'm a friendly, hard working and engaging tutor with plenty of experience working with children in a classroom environment and on a one to one basis. What can I o...”

Hannah W. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor
View profile
£18 /hr

Hannah W.

Degree: Modern Languages (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: French, Spanish


“About Me:I am currently in my final year at Durham University studying French and Spanish. Ilove learning languages and really enjoy sharing this passion with others.Before I started at University I spent 10 months as a teaching as...”

About the author

Henry  P. Mentoring French tutor, GCSE French tutor, Mentoring Spanis...
View profile

Henry P.

Currently unavailable: for regular students

Degree: Modern Foreign Languages (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: French, Spanish


“I love languages! I studied French & German up to A-level, I did a 1 year Polish course in Krakow, I learnt conversational Dutch over the course of two summers working in a Dutch-owned campsite in France and now at university I am con...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other GCSE French questions

How do I form a positive imperative command in French?

Why do some verbs use avoir and some être in the past tense?

What is the difference between a definite and an indefinite article?

What's the best way to remember vocabulary?

View GCSE French tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss