Le Passé Composé & Être

An auxiliary verb, or helping verb, is a conjugated verb used in front of another verb in order to indicate the mood and tense of the verb.

In the French Passé Composé, the auxiliary verb is either avoir or être.

Most French verbs use avoir.

However, some motion verbs for the Passé Composé by using the auxiliary verb être.

The following is a list of verbs that require être:
aller to go
arriver to arrive
descendre to descend / go downstairs
(redescendre to descend again)
entrer to enter
(rentrer to re-enter)
monter to climb
(remonter to climb again)
mourir to die
naître to be born
(renaître to be reborn, born again)
partir to leave
(repartir to leave again)
passer to pass
rester to stay
retourner to return
sortir to go out
(ressortir to go out again)
tomber to fall
(retomber to fall again)
venir to come
(devenir to become
parvenir to reach, achieve
revenir to come again, come back)

These are all verbs that describe a certain kind of movement. You do get used to these verbs over time and one day you'll just know whether to use être or avoir without even having to think about it.

In the meantime, though, you might find it useful to use a mnemonic device.


DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP
This is perhaps the most popular mnemonic device for être verbs in the United States.

Devenir
Revenir
&
Monter
Rester
Sortir

Venir
Aller
Naître
Descendre
Entrer
Rentrer
Tomber
Retourner
Arriver
Mourir
Partir


ADVENT
Each letter in ADVENT stands for one of the verbs and its opposite, plus one extra verb, for a total of thirteen.

Arriver - Partir
Descendre - Monter
Venir - Aller
Entrer - Sortir
Naître - Mourir
Tomber - Rester
Retourner