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French grammar - Past participles of avoir and être

Past participles of avoir & être

Two common verbs with very irregular past participles are avoir and être.

avoir ('to have') eu

-- The best equivalent of avoir eu in English is 'had' or 'to have had'.

-- In the past tense avoir eu can also have the sense of 'to get' or 'to receive'.

être ('to have') été

-- avoir été is typically used to talk about a temporary state - like 'to have been' in English.

-- That said avoir été is most commonly used to construct the passive voice - this will be covered in detail in a later topic.

In the passé composé both of these words take the auxiliary verb avoir.

Nous avons eu une discussion avec nos enfants.
We had a discussion with our children.
Ils ont eu un bébé.
They had a baby.
Il a eu sa fête en plein air.
He had his party outdoors.
Elle a eu une réaction allergique.
She had an allergic reaction.
J'ai eu une bonne note en mathématiques.
I got a good grade in math.

Has the sense of 'to get'

Elle a eu trois cadeaux pour son anniversaire.
She got three presents for her birthday.

Has the sense of 'to get'

As-tu eu son message ?
Did you (familiar) get his message?

Has the sense of 'to get'

Nous avons eu une très bonne idée.
We had a very good idea.
J'ai toujours été romantique.
I have always been romantic.
Elle a été une amie magnifique.
She was a wonderful friend.
Chacun d'entre vous a été très méchant aujourd'hui.
Every one of you (formal) was very naughty today.

chacun means 'each'

entre means 'between' or 'among'

Ils ont eu de nombreuses conversations.
They have had many conversations.

nombreux (adj) means 'many' or 'numerous'

Ce repas a été fabuleux !
This meal was fabulous!

fabuleux (adj) means 'fabulous'

Mon fils a eu de la fièvre, mais il n'a pas été très malade.
My son had a fever but he was not very sick.

fièvre (f) means 'fever'