When do we use whether and either

avoir / être - auxiliary and main verb in French

Avoir and être - Which verb do you have to use?

The verbs avoir and être are important verbs in the French language. They can be used as a main verb or as an auxiliary verb. With them we form the compound times. We also use either in different situations avoir or être.

With our clear explanation you will quickly learn the rules for differentiating between avoir and être. In the exercises you can then check whether you have understood everything.

How do you conjugate avoir?

How do you conjugate être?

When to use avoir as a main verb?

  • in possession
    Example:
    Il a une voiture. He has a car.
  • to denote a state that relates to a noun
    Example:
    J’ai le temps. Tu as une soeur. Elle a les yeux bleus, I have time. You have a sister. She has blue eyes.
  • to indicate the age
    Example:
    J’ai 23 ans.I am 23 years old.

When to use être as a main verb?

  • in connection with adjectives
    Example:
    Do it nicely. You are nice.
  • to identify things / living beings (name, nationality, occupation, ...)
    Example:
    C’est Laura. Elle est française. Elle est professeur. This is Laura. She is French. She is teacher.
  • for specifying the date and time
    Example:
    Aujourd’hui on est le 20 août. Il est 9 heures. Today is August 20th. It is 9 o `clock.

When to use avoir as an auxiliary verb?

  • for all transitive verbs (verbs with an accusative object)
    Example:
    Il a mis la table, he set the table.
  • at avoir and être
    Example:
    Elle a eu un vélo. She had a bike.
    Elle a été malade. She was sick.

When to use être as an auxiliary verb?

  • in the following 14 verbs, if they are used without a direct object: all, apparaître, arriver, descendre, entrer, monter, mourir, naître, partir, rester, retourner, sortir, tomber, venir
    Example:
    Il est monté. He went up.
    but:
    Il a monté le paquet. He carried the package up.
  • with all reflexive verbs
    Example:
    Je me suis trompé, I was wrong.
  • to form the passive voice
    Example:
    Le vélo est réparé par Xavier: Xavier repairs the bike.