Passé Composé and the Verbs That Switch between Etre and Avoir

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

The one thing about vandertramp verbs is that one does them with one’s entire body.  One arrives, one leaves, one passes, one is born, one dies, one falls, one goes, one enters, etc.  with one’s entire body.  That’s the beauty of the vandertramp verbs – there’s a sense of logic to them.

BUT … what happens to the verbs that mean two things? 

Sortir means to go out AND to get something out

Rentrer means to go in, to return home AND to put in or to get in

Descendre means to go down, to descend AND to get something down

Passer means to pass by something AND to pass something

Monter means to go up, to climb AND to put something up

When one is doing the first meaning of the verb (the whole body meaning), one uses the être construction in the passé composé.  When one is doing the second meaning of the verb (where you’re doing the action to something else), one uses the avoir construction in  the passé composé.


     Elle est montée dans l’ascenseur – She went up in the elevator

     Elle a monté ses bagages – She picked up, put up her bags

     Elle est sortie de l’hôtel – She left from the hotel

     Elle a sorti sa valise du compartiment – She took out her suitcase from the compartment

      Elle est descendue du train  – She got down, she descended from the train

     Elle a descendu son sac à dos – She got down her backpack

     Nous sommes rentrés à la maison – We came back home

     Nous avons rentré la voiture au garage – We put the car in the garage


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