Omitting Auxiliary Verbs

Omission de verbes auxiliaires

By definition, compound tenses and moods require an auxiliary verb plus past participle. However, when using two or more compound conjugations with the same subject, you don’t always need to include the auxiliary verb for each one. Consider these two questions:

1) Are all the verbs in the same tense/mood?

  • No: You must use the auxiliary verb for each conjugation.
  • Yes: Go on to the next question.

2) Do all the verbs use the same auxiliary verb?

  • No: You must use the auxiliary verb for each conjugation.
  • Yes: You do not have to repeat the auxiliary verb.

Different tenses/moods = All auxiliary verbs required

When using different tenses and/or moods in the same sentence, the auxiliary verb is required in front of each one because that is what actually creates the tense/mood in question.

Par exemple…

J’avais fini mon café quand j’ai vu le chat.   I’d finished my coffee when I saw the cat.
Après être tombé, il serait allé à l’hôpital.   After falling, he must have gone to the hospital.

Same tenses/moods + different auxiliary verbs = All auxiliary verbs required

 Though French has just two auxiliary verbs, for the purposes of this lesson there are in essence three:

  1. avoir
  2. être with intransitive verbs
  3. être with pronominal verbs

When any two or all three of the above are found within a single clause, you must use the auxiliary verb with each main verb.

J’ai vu le chat et (je) suis parti.   I saw the cat and (I) left.
Il s’est examiné et (il) est allé à l’hôpital.   He examined himself and (he) went to the hospital.

(Repetition of the subject pronoun is optional.)

Same tenses/moods + same auxiliary verb = Can omit duplicate auxiliary verb(s)

When all of the verbs in the clause are in the same tense/mood and require the same auxiliary verb, you have the option of omitting the 2nd, 3rd, etc. auxiliary verbs.

J’ai lu et écrit pendant toute la nuit.
J’ai lu et ai écrit pendant toute la nuit.
J’ai lu et j’ai écrit pendant toute la nuit.
  I read and wrote all night.
Il est entré, monté et arrivé à l’heure.
Il est entré, est monté et est arrivé à l’heure.
Il est entré, il est monté et il est arrivé à l’heure.
  He entered, went upstairs, and arrived on time.
Tu t’es réveillée et habillée tout seul ?
Tu t’es réveillée et es habillée tout seul ?
*
Tu t’es réveillée et t’es habillée tout seul ?
Tu t’es réveillée et tu t’es habillée tout seul ?
  Did you wake up and get dressed by yourself?

* Note that when you repeat the auxiliary of a pronominal verb, you must also repeat the reflexive pronoun.

En résumé

The auxiliary verb is required when it (1) signals the tense/mood and/or (2) is different than the other auxiliary verb. When the tense/mood and auxiliary are the same, you have the option to leave out the duplicate(s), but you don’t have to. So when in doubt, just say ’em all!

French auxiliary verbs

  1. Introduction and list of être verbs
  2. Variable auxiliary verbs
  3. Omitting auxiliary verbs

 Related lessons

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French auxiliary verbs
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