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French grammar - Passé composé with être verbs used transitively

Passé composé with être verbs used transitively

Verbs that take être in the passé composé are intransitive - that is they don't need to take a direct object.

-- For instance the verb aller is not done to something - it does not take a direct object.

There are however some of these verbs of motion that can be both intransitive and transitive. For example:

The verb descendre means 'to go down' so Il est descendu is intransitive.

But he is going down l'escalier ('the stairs') then it becomes transitive - descender now has an object.

Moreover descendre can also mean 'to take something down' and is therefore also transitive.

If a verb is used transitively in passé composé it must use avoir (and not être) as the auxiliary verb.

Verbs that can be both intransitive and transitive include:

descendre means 'to go down' AND 'to take down'

monter means 'to go up' AND 'to take up'

passer means 'to go by' AND 'to pass through' or 'to pass a period of time'

rentrer means 'to return' AND 'to bring back'

retourner means 'to go back' AND 'to take/send back'

sortir means 'to go out' AND 'to take out'

Examples:
Il est descendu.
He descended.
Il a descendu l'escalier.
He went down the stairs.

This is transitive because l'escalier is a direct object

Il a descendu la valise.
He took down the suitcase.

Transitive - la valise is a direct object

Il est monté.
He went up.
Il est monté au sommet d'une colline.
He climbed to the top of a hill.

Not transitive because au sommet is not a direct object

sommet (m) means 'summit'

colline (f) means 'hill'

Il a monté les valises.
He brought up the suitcases.

Transitive - les valises is a direct object

Il a monté le son très fort.
He turned up the sound very loud.

Transitive - le son is a direct object

On est montés dans la voiture avant vous.
We got in the car before you.

Not transitive because dans la voiture is not a direct object

Elle n'a pas monté la montagne, elle est montée sur la montagne.
She didn't take up the mountain, she climbed the mountain.

elle est montée is not transitive because sur la montaigne is not a direct object

Nous sommes montés dans l'avion.
We got on the plane.

Not transitive because dans l'avion is not a direct object

J'ai monté mon cheval.
I (male) rode my horse.

Transitive

Note that with avoir the past participle does not need to agree.

Je suis montée à cheval.
I (female) rode a horse.

Not transitive because à cheval is not a direct object

Nous sommes passés devant le parc.
We walked past the park.

Not transitive because devant le parc is not a direct object

devant means 'in front of' or 'by'

Nous avons passé la porte.
We walked through the door.

Transitive - la porte is a direct object

Vous êtes passée devant la porte.
You (formal female singular) walked past the door.

Not transitive because devant la porte is not a direct object

Vous avez passé un bon moment ?
Did you have (spend) a good time?

Transitive - un bon moment is the direct object

J'ai passé un mois à Nantes.
I (male) spent a month in Nantes.

Transitive - un mois is a direct object

Je suis rentré.
I (male) returned.

Often Je suis rentré means 'I have returned home'

J'ai rentré les chaises.
I brought in the chairs.

Transitive - les chaises is a direct object

Je suis retourné à l'école.
I (male) returned to school.

Not transitive because à l'école is not a direct object

Inès est retournée en France.
Ines returned to France.

Not transitive because en France is not a direct object

Inès a retourné la lettre.
Ines returned the letter.

Transitive

Note that with avoir the past participle does not need to agree.

Je suis retournée au magasin.
I (female) returned to the store.

Not transitive because au magasin is not a direct object

J'ai retourné le pull au magasin.
I (male)returned the sweater to the store.

Transitive - le pull is a direct object

Elle est sortie avec Patrice.
She went out with Patrice.

Not transitive because avec Patrice is not a direct object

Elle a sorti la voiture du parking.
She took the car out of the carpark.

Transitive

Note that with avoir the past participle does not need to agree.

Il a sorti le chien.
He took the dog out.

Transitive

Note that with avoir the past participle does not need to agree.

As-tu sorti les carottes du frigo hier soir ?
Did you (familiar, male or female) take the carrots out of the fridge last night?

Transitive

Note that with avoir the past participle does not need to agree.