How to conjugate the verb être in French with all tenses & moods

To be or not to be… Telle est la question. “Be” is probably one of the most, if not the most, important verb in many languages. Knowing its proper conjugation will allow you to:

Below, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to French “to be” conjugation. Ok, you might not need to use all these tenses — especially the fancy/vintage plusperfect subjunctive — but you’ll certainly take your French skills to the next level. And you’ll be able to read old French books!

The verb être

Happy students looking at laptop learning about the verb etre in French to be conjugation.

Être and avoir

“Être” and “Avoir” are the two most important French verbs. Unfortunately, these are irregular verbs, so you’re going to have to learn their conjugation. The good news is, once you do, you’ll be able to use them in a wide variety of contexts!

Main uses of “être”

“Être” means “to be”. As in English, it’s used to express a sense of being, whether temporary or permanent. It’s also used in the passive voice as an auxiliary verb.

Additionally, you’ll find “être” in these four grammatical expressions:

  • c'est – this is, that is.
  • est-ce que – to be used in a question.
  • être en train de – to express something progressive.
  • n'est-ce pas – to ask for confirmation of information or a statement.

Differences with English

While there are many similarities between “être” and “to be”, watch out for the following differences:

1. Age: In French, you’re not an age, you have it.

“J’ai trente ans” and NOT “Je suis trente ans”.

2. Weather: To comment on the weather in French, use “faire.”

“Il fait chaud” and NOT “Il est chaud”.

3. Basic needs

If you’re thirsty, hungry, hot or cold, use “avoir” in French. “J’ai soif” and NOT “Je suis soif”.

French verb to be complete conjugation charts

We want to make learning French as clear as possible for you, so you'll find complete French chart tables below for conjugating to be in French, in all tenses and all moods. It could be a good idea to print these all out for a nifty French verb grammar guide for the most popular verb: être. Or alternatively, bookmark this page, and come back to it for whenever you need a straightforward grammar check.

Present tense

The present tense is usually the first tense you’ll learn in a foreign language.

Even if you don’t master other tenses yet, you can get around and be understood using the present tense.

A great motivation to learn the table below, right?

And while you’re at it, make sure to learn the French pronouns.

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
Je suisI amJe suis heureux/heureuse.I am happy.
Tu esYou areTu es heureux/heureuse.You are happy.
Il/Elle estHe/she isIl est heureux./Elle est heureuse.He/she is happy.
Nous sommesWe areNous sommes heureux/heureuses.We are happy.
Vous êtesYou (all) areVous êtes heureux/heureuses.You (all) are happy.
Ils/Elles sontThey areIls sont heureux./Elles sont heureuses.They are happy.

Imperfect tense

The imperfect tense is the easiest past tense in French, with few irregular conjugations.

So forget about perfection and learn the French imperfect for “être”!

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’étaisI wasJ’étais heureux/heureuse.I was happy.
Tu étaisYou wereTu étais heureux/heureuse.You were happy.
Il/Elle étaitHe/She wasIl était heureux./Elle est heureuse.He/she was happy.
Nous étionsWe wereNous étions heureux/heureuses.We were happy.
Vous étiezYou (all) wereVous êtiez heureux/heureuses.You (all) were happy.
Ils/Elles étaientThey wereIls étaient heureux/Elles étaient heureuses.They were happy.

Future tense

Another staple of French grammar, the future tense is key to speaking about… well… the future.

That reminds me, did you read our article on possessive pronouns in French?

Ok, I’m getting off topic, back to the future!

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
Je seraiI will beJe serai heureux/heureuse.

I will be happy.

Tu serasYou will beTu seras heureux/heureuse.You will be happy.
Il/Elle seraHe/she will beIl sera heureux./Elle est heureuse.He/she will be happy.
Nous seronsWe will beNous serons heureux/heureuses.We will be happy.
Vous serezYou (all) will beVous serez heureux/heureuses.You (all) will be happy.
Ils/Elles serontThey will beIls seront heureux./Elles seront heureuses.They will be happy.

Conditional tense

The French conditionnel can be used as a mood and a tense. How cool is that?


Example sentence Translation
Je seraisI would beJe serais heureux/heureuse.I would be happy.
Tu seraisYou would beTu serais heureux/heureuse.You would be happy.
Il/Elle seraitHe/she would beIl serait heureux./Elle serait heureuse.He/she would be happy.
Nous serionsWe would beNous serions heureux/heureuses.We would be happy.
Vous seriezYou (all) would beVous seriez heureux/heureuses.You (all) would be happy.
Ils/Elles seraientThey would beIls seraient heureux./Elles seraient heureuses.They would be happy.

Present subjunctive

The subjunctive is widely used in French and other Latin languages. This mood is used to indicate uncertainty, subjectivity or unreality.

FrenchEnglishExample sentence Translation
Je soisI am/To beIl veut que je sois heureux/heureuse.He wants me to be happy.
Tu soisYou are/To beIl veut que tu sois heureux/heureuse.He wants you to be happy.
Il/Elle soitHe/she is/To beIl veut qu’il soit heureux./qu’elle soit heureuse.He wants him/her to be happy.
Nous soyonsWe are/To beIl veut que nous soyons heureux/heureuses.He wants us to be happy.
Vous soyezYou (all) are/To beIl veut que vous soyez heureux/heureuses.He wants you (all) to be happy.
Ils/Elles soientThey are/To beIl veut qu’ils soient heureux./qu’elles soient heureuses.He wants them to be happy.

Imperfect subjunctive

And here is another subjunctive for you! It's used in formal and written French from literature to history and journalism.

FrenchEnglishExample sentence Translation
Je fusseI was/To beIl voulait que je fusse heureux/heureuse.He wanted me to be happy.
Tu fussesYou were/To beIl voulait que tu fusses heureux/heureuse.He wanted you to be happy.
Il/Elle fûtHe/she was/To beIl voulait qu’il fusse heureux/qu’elle fusse heureuse.He wanted him/her to be happy.
Nous fussionsWe were/To beIl voulait que nous fussions heureux/heureuses.He wanted us to be happy.
Vous fussiezYou (all) were/To beIl voulait que vous fussiez heureux/heureuses.He wanted you (all) to be happy.
Ils/Elles fussentThey were/To beIl voulait qu’ils fussent heureux./qu’elles fussent heureuses.He wanted them to be happy.

Passé composé

The “passé composé” is very handy if you haven’t mastered the “imperfect” tense yet. It’s way easier to learn and easier to use in a conversation!

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’ai étéI have beenJ’ai été heureux/heureuse.I have been happy.
Tu as étéYou have beenTu as été heureux/heureuse.You have been happy.
Il/Elle a étéHe/she has beenIl a été heureux./Elle a été heureuse.He/she has been happy.
Nous avons étéWe have beenNous avons été heureux/heureuses.We have been happy.
Vous avez étéYou (all) have beenVous avez été heureux/heureuses.You (all) have been happy.
Ils/Elles ont étéThey have beenIls ont été heureux./Elles sont heureuses.They have been happy.

Past perfect

Past perfect follows the structure of the “passé composé”. Pretty easy!

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’avais étéI had beenJ’avais été heureux/heureuse.I had been happy.
Tu avais étéYou had beenTu avais été heureux/heureuse.You had been happy.
Il/Elle avait étéHe/she had beenIl avait été heureux./Elle avait été heureuse.He/she had been happy.
Nous avions étéWe had beenNous avions été heureux/heureuses.We had been happy.
Vous aviez étéYou (all) had beenVous aviez été heureux/heureuses.You (all) had been happy.
Ils/Elles avaient étéThey had beenIls avaient été heureux/Elles avaient été heureuses.They had been happy.

Future perfect

Ok, we’re entering advanced French territory… But hey, even if you don’t get to use the tenses and moods below, they might still help you to read books in French!

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’aurai étéI will have beenJ’aurai été heureux/heureuse.I will have been happy.
Tu auras étéYou will have beenTu auras été heureux/heureuse.You will have been happy.

Il/Elle aura étéHe/she will have beenIl aura été heureux./Elle aura été heureuse.He/she will have been happy.
Nous aurons étéWe will have beenNous aurons été heureux/heureuses.We will have been happy.
Vous aurez étéYou (all) will have beenVous aurez été heureux/heureuses.You (all) will have been happy.
Ils/Elles auront étéThey will have beenIls auront été heureux./Elles auront été heureuses.They will have been happy.

Past conditional

Yep, another advanced one… you can use the past conditional in French to talk about something that would, could, or should have, but didn't happen.

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’aurais étéI would have beenJ’aurais été heureux/heureuse.I would have been happy.
Tu aurais étéYou would have beenTu aurais été heureux/heureuse.You would have been happy.
Il/Elle aurait étéHe/she would have beenIl aurait été heureux./Elle aurait été heureuse.He/she would have been happy.
Nous aurions étéWe would have beenNous aurions été heureux/heureuses.We would have been happy.
Vous auriez étéYou (all) would have beenVous auriez été heureux/heureuses.You (all) would have been happy.
Ils/Elles auraient étéThey would have beenIls auraient été heureux./Elles auraient été heureuses.They would have been happy.

Past subjunctive

And another… you can use the past subjunctive in French to express emotion, doubts, and uncertainty.

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’aie étéI wasElle est contente que j’aie été heureux/heureuse.She is glad I was happy.
Tu aies étéYou wereElle est contente que tu aies été heureux/heureuse.She is glad you were happy.
Il/Elle ait étéHe/she wasElle est contente qu’il ait été heureux./Qu’elle ait été heureuse.She is glad he/she was happy.
Nous ayons étéWe wereElle est contente que nous ayons été heureux/heureuses.She is glad we were happy.
Vous ayez étéYou (all) wereElle est contente que vous ayez été heureux/heureuses.She is glad you (all) were happy.
Ils/Elles aient étéThey wereElle est contente qu’ils aient été heureux./Qu’elles aient été heureuses.She is glad they were happy.

Pluperfect subjunctive

If you’re capable of learning and using the extremely rare, extremely formal French verb form pluperfect subjunctive of être in a conversation with Francophones, you deserve a prize. Up to the challenge?

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’eusse étéI would have beenAvec lui, j’eusse été heureux/heureuse.With him, I would have been happy.
Tu eusses étéYou would have beenAvec lui, tu eusses été heureux/heureuse.With him, you would have been happy.
Il/Elle eût étéHe/she would have beenAvec lui, il eusse été heureux./Elle eusse été heureuse.With him, he/she would have been happy.
Nous eussions étéWe would have beenAvec lui, nous eussions été heureux/heureuses.With him, we would have been happy.
Vous eussiez étéYou (all) would have beenAvec lui, vous eussiez été heureux/heureuses.With him, you (all) would have been happy.
Ils/Elles eussent étéThey would have beenAvec lui, ils eussent été heureux./Elles eussent été heureuses.With him, they would have been happy.

Passé simple

Even though you won’t hear this one very often in everyday conversations, it’s a very useful tense to know if you want to speak French properly.

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
Je fusI wasJe fus heureux/heureuse.I was happy.
Tu fusYou wereTu fus heureux/heureuse.You were happy.
Il/Elle futHe/she wasIl fut heureux./Elle est heureuse.He/she was happy.
Nous fûmesWe wereNous fûmes heureux/heureuses.We were happy.
Vous fûtentYou (all) wereVous fûtes heureux/heureuses.You (all) were happy.
Ils/Elles furentThey wereIls furent heureux./Elles furent heureuses.They were happy.

Past anterior

Try to use this one to impress your French-speaking friends!

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
J’eus étéI would have beenJ’eus été heureux/heureuse.I would have been happy.
Tu eus étéYou would have beenTu eus été heureux/heureuse.You would have been happy.
Il/Elle eut étéHe/she would have beenIl eut été heureux./Elle eut été heureuse.He/she would have been happy.
Nous eûmes étéWe would have beenNous eûmes été heureux/heureuses.We would have been happy.
Vous eûtes étéYou (all) would have beenVous eûtes été heureux/heureuses.You (all) would have been happy.
Ils/Elles eurent étéThey would have beenIls eurent été heureux./Elles eurent été heureuses.They would have been happy.

Imperative mood

The imperative mood is used to give orders/commands. The lack of a subject pronoun identifies this mood. To find the French conjugation for “être” in the imperative mood, just use the present indicative.

FrenchEnglishExample sentenceTranslation
SoisBeSois heureux/heureuseBe happy
SoyonsLet’s beSoyons heureux/heureusesLet’s be happy
SoyezBeSoyez heureux/heureusesBe happy (all)

In this article, we covered the most important things to know about French to be conjugation.

By now, you should be a true “spelling be” in French.

But if you’re still struggling with “être,” don’t let it be. Check out our French learning blog or our French lessons!

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