Sortir (to get out) is a verb full of exceptions. It’s irregular, and it can have either être or avoir as an auxiliary verb, depending on the meaning you want to convey.
Like that one friend we all know, it may be complicated, but it’s also really helpful. So, let’s take a closer look at it.
Why does sortir have two auxiliary verbs in the past tense?
First things first: As if French verb conjugation isn’t tricky enough, why the heck do you have to choose between être and avoir as an auxiliary verb for sortir?
Essentially, the French wanted to employ the same verb to indicate a living creature or conscious object (like a robot!) leaving or emerging from somewhere, or someone taking or letting it out. The auxiliary used with sortir in the past tense just helps differentiate its meaning.
So, even though it may seem complicated, the goal of having two different auxiliary verbs is ultimately, clarity!
Être + sortir
Être and the past participle of sortir basically means “took oneself out”.
For example, Elle est sortie de la maison hantée en hurlant. (She left the haunted house, screaming.) Or Quand le tigre est sorti de sa caverne, le zoo était fermé. Dommage pour les visiteurs qui espéraient le voir ! (When the tiger came out of his cave, the zoo was closed. Too bad for the visitors who were hoping to see him!)
You may think I made a mistake with those example sentences – is it sortie or sorti? Unfortunately for those of us engaged in the struggle that is learning French verbs — but fortunately for me, who could get fired if I make too many mistakes — both of those sentences are correct.
In most cases, when être is an auxiliary, the verb and the subject must agree. So, if the subject is masculine, the participle is sorti. If the subject is feminine, that becomes sortie.
If the subject is plural, you have to make that agree, too. For example, Nous sommes sortis de l’école tôt aujourd’hui. (We got out of school early today.)
And let’s take it up a notch -if everyone/everything in a group is feminine, then you have to add an e and an s! Like so: Nous sommes sorties de l’école tôt aujourd’hui. (We (girls) got out of school early today.).
Keep in mind that when I say “feminine” and “masculine”, I’m not just talking about people. For example, maybe the school I mentioned above is a school for dogs, or maybe a school for magical objects. That last example sounds a bit odd, but in potentially confusing cases like this, why not get a little creative?
Avoir + sortir
Avoir and the past participle of sortir means “took something/someone out.”
Good news! When avoir is the auxiliary, you don’t have to agree the subject and the participle. You can see that in the second example above – if sortir had to agree with the subject, it would take on an e and an s!
How to conjugate sortir
Now that we’ve got that down, let’s move onto how to conjugate sortir. Below, you’ll find this verb in its most common tenses. If you want to see even more tenses, check out this conjugation guide.
How to conjugate sortir in the present simple
What it means: to take or go out
Example sentence : Mon voisin sort de sa maison chaque matin à 8h. (My neighbor comes out of his house every morning at 8:00.)
How to conjugate sortir in the passé composé
What it means: got out/took out
Note: Remember our discussion above: Sortir can have either être or avoir as an auxiliary verb, which affects what it means. Like so….
Être + sortir (Remember that the past participle of sortir has to agree with the subject.)
What it means: took oneself out
|Nous||is/ies||sommes sortis/sommes sorties|
|Vous||i/ie/is/ies||êtes sorti/êtes sortie/êtes sortis/êtes sorties|
|Ils/ells||is/ies||sont sortis/sont sorties|
Example sentence: Un autre gâteau brûlé ! Nous sommes vite sortis de la cuisine. (Another burnt cake! We got quickly out of the kitchen.)
Avoir + sortir (Remember that the past participle of sortir DOES NOT agree with the subject.)
What it means: took someone/something out
Example sentence: Nous avons sorti le gâteau du four. Zut – Il était brûlé ! (We took the cake out of the oven. Darn – it was burnt!)
How to conjugate sortir in the imparfait
What it means:
used to/would go out/take out
Example : Tous les soirs elle sortait la poubelle. (Every evening she took out the garbage.)
How to conjugate sortir in the future simple
What it means: will go out/take out
Example : À quelle heure sortiront-ils de la répétition ? (What time will they get out of rehearsal?)
How to conjugate sortir in the conditional
What means: would go out/take out
Example : Elles ne sortiraient ce soir que si nous allions au cinéma. (They would only go out tonight if we went to the movies.)
How to conjugate sortir in the subjunctive
What it means: that [subject] go out/take out (expressing a wish or hypothetical situation)
The imperative forms of sortir
Example: Sors de là ! (Get out of there!)
Example: On passe beaucoup trop de temps à se demander quoi faire ! Sortons d’ici tout de suite ! (We spend way too much time asking ourselves what to do! Let’s get out of here right away!)
C’est bon, on a gagné à cache-cache ! Sortons de notre super cachette ! (Well, we’ve won hide-and-seek! Let’s get out of our super hiding place!)
14 expressions with sortir
There are a number of expressions that use sortir. Here are some of the most common.
As you’ll see from this list, like in English, sortir can be taken literally or in a more abstract way, like when you’re talking about movie release dates, for example.
sortir avec quelqu’un – to go out with someone. As in English, this usually means in a romantic, regular way. Example: Elle n’a pas du tout envie de sortir avec toi – elle sort avec Brad Pitt ! (She has no desire whatsoever to date you – she’s dating Brad Pitt!) But it could also be used in a more neutral context. For example: Je suis sortie avec mes meilleurs amis hier soir. (I went out with my best friends last night.)
sortir couvert – This expression originally meant to go outside with a coat on. By extension, with the advent of safe sex awareness campaigns, this also came to mean, “When you go out looking for love, always bring a condom.”
sortir de là – Get out of there!
sortir du lot – Stand out from the crowd
sortir du placard – to come out of the closet (openly declare one’s homosexuality)
sortir en boîte – to go out to the club
sortir ensemble – to be dating (similar to sortir avec).
sortir le grand jeu – to pull out all the stops (do your utmost to impress someone)
sortir les poubelles – to take out the trash/bins
sortir un album – to release an album
faire sortir de force – to force someone out of somewhere. Il a trop bu et le videur l’a fait sortir de force du bar. (He drank too much and the bouncer threw him out of the bar.)
Ne pas être sorti(e)(s) de l’auberge – to not be out of the woods yet (i.e., not out of trouble yet). On a évité de justesse ce chien qui mord tout le monde, mais nous ne sommes pas sortis de l’auberge – on dit qu’il y a des loups par ici ! (We barely avoided that dog who bites everyone, but we’re not out of the woods yet – they say there are wolves around here!)
s’en sortir – to manage, to get by. Example : Je pensais que le parkour était trop difficile, mais finalement je m’en sors pas mal ! (I thought parkour was too hard, but actually, I’m not doing too badly!)
How to use sortir as a noun
Sortie, the noun related to sortir, can mean many things. Let’s look at the most common:
– an exit. If you’ve been to a French-speaking country, you’ve probably seen or learned to say this word.
Une sortie de secours is an emergency exit.
– a release date. Example: Voici les sorties cinema de la semaine. (Here are the new movie releases for this week.)
– an excursion.
Une sortie en famille is a family outing
Une sortie scolaire is a school trip (field trip)
Mastering sortir might not seem easy, but it’s possible. Practice conjugation and your French Together courses, et tu vas t’en sortir!