The Verb Être in French – Simple Present

The verb être in French is one of the most useful and critical verbs you will ever need. It’s used to express a lot of concepts in the language. Just like the English verb “to be”, être is probably one of the most used verbs in the French language.

It’s also used to form other verb constructions like the passé composé (the most used past tense in modern French), but we will get into that later. Today, we will focus on the present tense.

Être is an irregular verb. Therefore, it doesn’t follow the conjugation rules for regular verbs. But hey, what would languages be like if there were no exceptions? So, without much further ado, let’s get started!


Conjugations of Être

Pile of books, blocks, pencil colors, and an apple.

English has three conjugations of “to be”, which are am, is, and are. Well, French has a few more of its equivalent, making a total of six. You can look at the conjugations of être below.

je suis                           I am 

tu es                             you are (second person singular informal)

il/elle/on est                 he/she is

nous sommes               we are

vous êtes                      you are (second person singular formal or second person plural)

ils/elles sont                 they are


Remember tu and vous can be used interchangeably when referring to the second person singular. The only difference is the verb conjugation (es vs êtes).  

The same concept applies to on. Even though it means we in most cases, we use the conjugation est and not sommes.


Pronunciation and Contractions

If you still haven’t read my post on French pronunciation, you can do so here. Moving forward, it’s important to master pronunciation before learning more advanced concepts.

Watch the video below and notice the pronunciation of both the subject pronouns and the verbs. Repeat after the teacher as many times as necessary.

Did you notice the pronunciation of vous êtes? The s in vous sounds like z. It’s what we call le liaison. It’s very common in French. We will cover that subject in more detail shortly.

When conjugating être, we don’t use contractions in standard French. However, in everyday French, people tend to use a few contractions. For example, je suis is shortened to j’suis and tu es to t’es. Let’s not worry about that now, though. 


Uses of Être as the Main Verb

Être can be used both as a main verb or as an auxiliary for other tenses. We will not talk about its uses as an auxiliary verb today since that is a different topic. Here we will focus on its uses as the main verb in a sentence.

The most common uses of être are to express the following concepts:

  • Description
  • Nationality
  • Profession
  • Location
  • Dates
  • Times
  • Possession
  • With adjectives in general



Let’s take a look at some examples using être.


Young woman in the fields.Je suis grand (I’m tall)

Elle est jeune (She’s young)



Il est américain (He’s American)

Nous sommes italiens (We’re Italian)

Note: Notice that nationalities are not capitalized in French. Only proper nouns are capitalized, so you will have to rely on the context.



Vous êtes médecin (You are a doctor)

Ils sont acteurs (They’re actors)

Note: We don’t use articles with professions in French.



Je suis au travail (I’m at work)

Tu es à l’école (You’re at school)

Elles sont au magasin (They’re at the store)



Nous sommes vendredi (It’s Friday)

On est 15 mai (It’s May 15)

Note: For dates, we normally use nous sommes or on est. Don´t translate literally since it doesn´t make sense in English.



Silver pocket watch.Il est 15h (It’s 3 p.m.)

Il est 9h (It’s 9 a.m.)

Note: To express time in French, we always use il est. Also, keep in mind the French use a 24h system instead of using a.m. or p.m.



Cet ordinateur est à lui (This computer is his)

La voiture est à moi (The car is mine)

Note: To express possession with être, we have to use a stressed pronoun like moi, lui, etc.


With Adjectives in General

Je suis content (I’m happy)

Elle est responsable (She’s responsible)

Ils sont fatigués (They’re tired)


Some Expressions with Être

Let’s take a look at some common French expressions that use this verb.

être à l’heure (to be on time)

être en retard (to be late)

être d’accord (to agree)

être au courant (to be aware of)

être à l’aise (to be at ease)

être en colère (to be angry)

être de bonne humeur (to be in a good mood)

être au chômage (to be unemployed)

être à l’intérieur (to be inside)

Remember we have to conjugate the verb correctly. Think of the subject. Is it singular/plural and/or masculine/feminine? Remember grammatical genders matter in French.



There you have it. Today we learned the importance of the verb être as well as its most common uses. We learned it can either be the main verb or an auxiliary verb in a sentence.

We also learned how to conjugate it. Remember it’s an irregular verb. We will talk more in-depth about the subject in a later post.

Try to practice the pronunciation and conjugation of this verb as much as you can. It takes some practice but is necessary.

As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions below. Au revoir!

The verb etre in French




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6 thoughts on “The Verb Être in French – Simple Present”

  1. It’s one of my life goals to learn some basic French one day! I guess that day starts today because I have already learned a ton from your post! 😀 Honestly, I think French is harder than English, or maybe because it’s completely new to me, or both. Thank you for this awesome article. I will return to learn more French in the future for sure! -Jane 

    • Hi, Jane,

      I’m sure you can do it! It’s just a matter of studying and not giving up.

      I’m glad you found this useful. Check out my other articles for more tips.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Well thanks to You and Vincent anyone visiting your site is going to get a very informative lesson in the use of the french language and its pretenses. 

    Being an Australian and having been to France i can understand the need to know how to at the very least communicate on a basic level with the locals and i feel you give people an in site into that and more   

    • Hey, Rob,

      Glad you liked it. 

      Feel free to visit from time to time to check out more tips on French.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Hi Enrique,

    Your article is fabulous, provides a nice overview of how to use Verb Être in French.

    My first tough is not French, but English but I love France and been there twice, and fascinated by the language.

    I recently started learning French, which seems not easy with much tricky pronunciation. Your article helped me with one of those.

    I would like to read more of your articles, especially such tricky French verbs.

    Best wishes.

    • Hi, Skamalka,

      Glad you liked it.

      Yes, I understand. French pronunciation is tricky. I wrote a couple of articles on the subject. You can check them here and here.

      Feel free to come back to check out more tips on learning French.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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