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FRENCH GRAMMAR POINTS

Frequently Misused Verbs: visiting, returning & coming back

If I’m going back to Paris, I’m visiting a friend and I’ll return on Monday! The translation of these verbs is not always straightforward.

You’re visiting a friend? Instinctively, a native English speaker will say je visite. In French, we visit a city or a touristy place but not a person; therefore we cannot use the verb visiter in this situation! We would have to use ‘going to see’ (aller voir) or ‘passing by’ (passer voir) or ‘to render a visit’ (rendre visite)!

You’re at work, you need to go out for a break and you say to a co-worker: ‘I will return in 15 minutes’? In French, we cannot use the verb retourner in this situation. Retourner means ‘to go back’, not ‘return’! We need to say ‘I’ll come back in 15 minutes’ (Je reviendrai dans 15 minutes)!

Following is a list of the most commonly used verbs of motion backed up with some examples – hope this will bring you some clarification:

1) Sortir = to go outside or to go for an outing.

Ex : Je sors ce samedi soir ! = I’m going out this Saturday evening!
Ex : Je sors un moment dans le jardin ! = I’m going out for a while in the garden.

Note: In this case, sortir is conjugated with the auxiliary être in the passé composé (hier soir, je suis sorti(e) = French grammaryesterday, I went out).

Sortir = to take something outside.

Ex: Je sors la poubelle = I’m taking the trash outside.

Note: In this case, sortir is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir in the passé composé (hier, j’ai sorti la poubelle = yesterday, I took out the trash).

2) Rentrer = to go home!

Ex: Je suis fatigué, je rentre ! = I’m tired, I’m returning home.

Note: In this case, rentrer is conjugated with the auxiliary être in the passé composé (hier soir, je suis rentré(e) à 23h = last night, I went home at 11pm).

Rentrer = to bring or take something inside.

Ex : Je rentre la voiture dans le garage = I’m putting the car in the garage.

Note: In this case, rentrer is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir in the passé composé (hier, j’ai rentré la poubelle = yesterday, I brought the trash bin in).

3) Visiter = to visit a place or a tourist destination.

Ex: Demain, je vais visiter Notre-Dame = Tomorrow, I’m going to
visit Notre-Dame.

Note: Visiter is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir in the passé composé (hier, j’ai visité Notre-Dame = yesterday, I visited Notre-Dame).

4) Rendre visite à or aller voir or passer voir = to pay a visit to or to go see someone! This is how the French express themselves when they’re visiting SOMEONE.
Ex : Après le travail, je vais rendre visite à Caroline.
Ex : Après le travail, je vais aller voir Caroline.
Ex : Après le travail, je passe voir Caroline.

Note: Rendre visite is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir (hier, j’ai rendu visite à Caroline= yesterday, I visited Caroline).
Note: Aller voir is conjugated with the auxiliary être (hier, je suis allé(e) voir Caroline= yesterday, I went to see Caroline).
Note: Passer voir is conjugated with the auxiliary être.

5) Venir = to come

Ex: Je viens demain ! = I’m coming tomorrow.

Note: Venir is conjugated with the auxiliairy être (je suis venu(e) te voir hier = I came to see you yesterday).

6) Revenir = to come back/to be back (expressed when you’re telling someone you’re coming back to the place where you’re standing at that moment).

Ex : Ce restaurant était délicieux, je reviendrai samedi prochain avec des amis = this restaurant was delicious, I’ll be back next Saturday.

Note: Revenir is conjugated with the auxiliary être (je suis revenue(e) hier = I came back yesterday.

7) Retourner = to go back to a place you’ve been to before but you’re not standing at that place when you’re expressing it.

Ex: You’re in England and you’re saying to a friend : Je retournerai en France dans 2 mois = I’ll go back to France in 2 months.

Note: Retourner is conjugated with the verb être (je suis retourné(e) en France il y a 2 mois= I went back to France 2 months ago).

8) Partir = to leave and to depart.

Ex: Je pars pour l’Angleterre demain = I’m leaving for England tomorrow.

Ex: Le train part à 16h = the train is leaving at 4 pm.

Note: Partir is conjugated with the verb être: (je suis parti(e) hier pour l’Angleterre = I left yesterday for England); (le train est parti à 16h = the train left at 4 pm).

Céline Anthonioz

French GrammarFrench Grammar

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