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The verbs ÊTRE and avoir

Cherries, Sweet Cherries, Pretty Woman

The Verbs être and avoir, Subject Pronouns, and Negation
The Verb : The verb in French is the most important element of a statement or question, since it conveys so much information: the person, the action or state, and the time of the action.

An infinitive is the unconjugated form of the verb. For example, to be is an English infinitive. French infinitives are single words; they do not contain the element to. Conjugations are the verb forms that belong to particular subjects. I am and he is are conjugations of the English infinitive to be.

Être (to be) and avoir (to have) are the most common French verbs. It makes sense to learn them fi rst. You will find être and avoir everywhere: in descriptions, in idiomatic expressions, as linking verbs, and as helping (auxiliary) verbs in compound tenses. Like many common French verbs, être and avoir are irregular—with special conjugation patterns. You will begin to learn regular verbs in the next section

Je suis américain. I am American.
Nous avons deux enfants. We have two children

Être and Subject Pronouns
All verb conjugations in French have six “persons.” Three are singular, corresponding to: I, you (familiar), and he/she/it/one. Three are plural, corresponding to: we, you (pol. singular, and fam. or pol. plural), and they. The verb être has six different conjugated forms:

Present Tense of être (to be)
       SINGULAR                                PLURAL
1st Person  je suis I am              1st Person     nous sommes we are
2nd Person tu es you are (fam.)   2nd Person    vous êtes you are (pol. s.;
                                                                                    fam./pol. pl.)
3rd Person il est he/it is              3rd Person     ils sont they (m. pl.) are
        elle est she/it is                            elles sont they (f. pl.) are
        on est one is, we/they are

Subject Pronouns
As in English, conjugated forms of French verbs are preceded by one of the following:
• A common noun (a person, animal, place, thing, or idea)
• A proper noun (a name)
• Or a subject pronoun (a word used in place of a noun)

Subject Pronouns
PERSON              SINGULAR           PLURAL
1st                               je/j’                              I nous we
2nd                             tu you (fam.) vous you (pol. s.; fam./pol. pl.)
3rd                              il he/it (m.)                  ils they (m. pl. or mixed)
elle she/it (f.) elles they (f. pl.)
on one/we/they

Gender and Number
Remember that all French nouns have gender and number: Every noun is either masculine or feminine (le livre, la table), and either singular or plural (l’hôtel [m.], les hôtels).

The subject pronoun of a conjugated verb corresponds to the gender and number of the noun (a person or thing) that it replaces.
La table est dans le salon. The table is in the living room.
Elle (La table) est dans le salon. It is in the living room.

Context will help you determine the person or object the subject pronoun refers to.

Uses of Subject Pronouns
Conjugated verb forms in French are always preceded by a noun or a subject pronoun.

Verb Forms Without Subjects
Verb infinitives, commands (or imperatives; covered in Chapter 11), and present participles (Chapter 12) do not include a noun subject or a subject pronoun.
• To avoid repetition, the subject pronoun often replaces a noun.
Richard est en ville.                       Richard is downtown.
Il est au cinéma.                               He is at the movies.
Mes soeurs sont en voyage.    My sisters are on a trip.
Elles sont à Lille.                         They’re in Lille.

Je (I). In French, je is capitalized only when it begins a sentence. Like
the defi nite articles le and la, je drops (elides) the letter -e before a vowel sound. It is replaced by an apostrophe and closed up to the conjugated

Je suis content; j’ai un nouveau travail.
I am happy; I have a new job.

Tu and vous (you). Tu (with its verb form) is always singular. It is used to speak to one person who is a friend or relative, to a child, or to a pet. Vous is used to speak to someone you don’t know well or to anyone with whom you have a relationship of respect, for example, strangers, new acquaintances, salespeople, or professionals. The plural of both tu and vous is vous (with its conjugated verb form).

Sylvie, tu es étudiante?                 Sylvie, are you a student?
Pardon, Madame, vous êtes       Excuse me, Ma’am, are you
la mère de Sylvie?                           Sylvie’s mother?
Attention les enfants! Vous         Children! Are you ready?
êtes prêts?

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