Etre in French: Conjugation & Meaning

Instructor: Ashley White

Ashley has taught French at the secondary and post-secondary levels and holds a Master's degree in French and French literature.

Who are you? Have you ever thought about how to describe yourself to a French person? The task can sound kind of intimidating, but with the help of the following lesson you can master the French verb ''être''.

Être Meaning

In almost every conversation you will need the French verb être. Être (pronounced: ay-tr, with a soft 'r' at the end) is used to indicate how things are. Literally meaning 'to be' être can be conjugated with the various French pronouns, paired with adjectives or used in numerous idiomatic expressions.

Conjugation

Each French pronoun requires a different conjugation of the verb être. This table shows you a pronoun, the correct conjugation of être, the English meaning of the conjugation, and the conjugation pronunciation.

Subject Pronoun Être Conjugation Pronunciation English Meaning
je (I) suis (am) swee I am
tu (you) es (are) ay You are
il (he) est (is) ay He is
elle (she) est (is) ay She is
nous (we) sommes (are) sohm We are
vous (you) êtes(are) eht You are (formal) or You all are
ils (they) sont (are) sohn They are
elles (they) sont (are) sohn They are (feminine)

Conjugation Examples

Imagine you are talking about the nationalities of your friends and yourself. Study the above chart and following sentences and note how the verb être is conjugated and used with adjectives. In this case the adjective is the nationality American.

Je suis Américain. I am American.

Et toi? And you? Tu es américain? Are you American?

Paul est Américain. Paul is American.

Nous sommes Américains. We are Americans.

Vous êtes Américains? Are you all Americans?

Ils sont Américains. They are Americans.

Julie et Diane, elles sont Américains aussi. Julie and Diane, they are Americans too.

Être With Idiomatic Expressions

The verb être is used in numerous idiomatic expressions in French. Be cautious in your interpretation of idiomatic expressions, they do not always translate directly. Once you have mastered the conjugation of être try using some of the following expressions.

être d'accord

When you want to express that you agree with someone or something, you can use the expression &ecirc:tre d'accord. For example, if your waiter says that today's weather is beautiful, you could agree.

Waiter: Il fait beau aujourd'hui

You: Oui, je suis d'accord.

être de

Expressing where you come from is an essential part of conversation when speaking a foreign language. The expression être de + a place indicates that you originate from that place.

Je suis de France.

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