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In the perfect (past) tense, when do I use avoir and when do I use être?

Most perfect tense (passé-composé) verbs use 'avoir' when put in the past tense, for example:

J'ai fait = I did
Elle a ouvri = she opened
Ils ont dit = they said

However, there is a list of verbs in the past tense that use être. This might seem confusing, however, there is a very easy way of remembering it, and that is simply to remember this anagram: MRS VAN DE TRAMP

M - Monter: to climb
R - Rester: to stay
S - Sortir: to exit
V - Veiir: to come
A - Arriver: to arrive
N - Nâître: to be born
D - Descendre: to go down
E - Entrer: to enter
T - Tomber: to fall
R - Rétourner: to return
A - Aller: to go
M - Mourir: to die
P - Partir: to leave

It is good to learn this anagram - write it out a few times until you know it. This should help you lock it in your mind! 

Don't forget as well that when you use a verb in the past tense that requires être, you must make sure to make the masculine/feminine and singular/plural endings agree.

For example, if you are a girl talking in the first person, you must say 'je suis allée" (I went).

Some more examples:

He was born: il est nu
She was born: elle est nue
They (m) entered: Ils ont entrés
We fell: Nous sommes tombés

Practice writing out some sentences in the past tense using the list of Mrs Van De Tramp.

Emily O. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature tu...

9 months ago

Answered by Emily, a 13 Plus French tutor with MyTutor


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Emily O. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature tu...

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