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All compound tenses (such as the passé composé, the future perfect, and the past conditional) are composed of two parts: an auxiliary and a past participle. In French, auxiliary verbs are always either avoir or être. Most verbs are ordinarily conjugated with avoir. The list of verbs ordinarily conjugated with être is short and worth remembering. They are generally considered to be verbs of motion. The most common of such verbs are: aller, sortir, partir, venir, revenir, devenir, monter, remonter, descendre, redescendre, naître, mourir, passer, tomber, retourner, rester.

Note, however, that in addition to these verbs, any verb used reflexively or reciprocally (that is, with a reflexive pronoun) will be conjugated with être in compound tenses. So,

Jeanine a levé la main. (Jeanine raised her hand.)


Les paysans se sont levés contre l'armée du roi. (The peasants rose up against the king's army.)

Additionally, some verbs normally conjugated with être can also be used transitively (that is, with a direct object). When used in this way, the verbs need to be conjugated with avoir. So,

Elle est montée à sa chambre. (She went up to her room.)
Il est descendu à la cave. (He went down to the cellar.)


Elle a monté l'escalier. (She went up the stairs.)
Il a descendu trois valises. (He took down three suitcases.)

Note that changing auxiliaries can affect the past participle. See Past participle agreement, Reflexive verbs.

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