Other than, asseyons-nous, I can't recall ever seeing a present tense, imparfait or simple future form of s'asseoir (to sit down, etc.) used.

Present tense seems to always be in the form of être assis (to be seated). Par exemple,  je suis assis (I am seated/sitting).

Imparfait seems to always be in the form of:

j'étais assis (I was seated/sitting)

Passe Composé is in the form of:

j'ai été assis (I have been seated/sitting) although,

I have seen je me suis assis (I sat), as well.

And, I've only ever seen futur proche, never simple future.

je vais m'asseoir (I will/I am going to sit)


Is it the case that present, imparfait and simple future forms of this verb are not commonly used, or is it that I have just not encountered them?





Bonjour Robert,


They are all used, but sometimes the context of their use can be quite specific. Let me try to break them down, both versions and in all tenses to tease out the nuances. Essentially the difference between the two is that s'asseoir is the act of sitting down (active), while être assis is the state of being seated (passive). The fact that you haven't come accross some of the examples is just indicative of the fact that some are not used all that frequently.

Present Tense:

  1. Je m'assieds / Je m'assois - I'm sitting down (I either lowering myself on to the seat or indicating that I'm about to)
  2. Je suis assis - I'm sitting (I am seated, this is just a state)


  1. Je m'asseyais / Je m'assoyais - I was (in the process of) sitting down (when something happened)
  2. J'étais assis - I was sitting (I was sitting for a period of time, no movement was involved)

Passé Composé:

  1. Je me suis assis - I sat down (I completed the full action of sitting down)
  2. J'ai été assis - I was / had been sitting (I had been sitting but that action has a completed and definitive end, relative to the story I'm telling)

Futur Proche:

  1. Je vais m'asseoir - I am going to sit down (I will undertake the action of sitting down)
  2. Je vais être assis - I am going to be seated (Soon, I will be on a seat somwhere)

Futur Simple:

  1. Je m'assiérai / Je m'assoirai - I will sit down (I will undertake the action of sitting down)
  2. Je serai assis - I will be seated (In the future, I will be on a seat)


In hindsight I'm not sure I haven't just thrown too much down on the page, nevertheless I think it is important to consider the differences between the active and passive forms in various tenses. 

To be fair, the majority of these you don't really use in daily life. Usually you would look for a simple way of putting it, but if the description requires different tenses or lengths of time within the same sentence, then you would likely go for some of the more obscure forms to clarify the series of events.


I hope this helps!


   -   Mitchell




Bonjour Mitchell,

It sounds like your conclusion leads to my question, which was, is the passive voice used primarily in this case, or are the instances that I've seen just skewed that way? My goal is to find out what the most common usage is. It seems to me that if the verb is typically used in passive voice it would simplify things considerably.





Bonjour Robert,


I see what you mean but I fear you may be looking at it in the wrong way. These are NOT synonyms. I'm reluctant to say what the most common usage is because they mean different things. One is the active act of lowering your bottom onto a seat, while the other is simply the passive act of sitting on something and these meanings are very distinct (at least in French). 

Am I wrong in thinking that perhaps the English translation is causing a misinterpretation? By that I mean, in English the passive and the active can sometimes blur, so “I'm sitting down” is most likely taken as a passive state, but equally it could be the act of lowering yourself on a seat. I think this blurring is evidenced by the fact that I had to over-exaggerate the definitions for each above.

Here is an example that will hopefully highlight the difference:

  • Je me suis assis et le spectacle a commencé. Pendant que j'étais assis, les gens n'arrêtaient pas de se lever.
  • I sat down and then the show started. While I was sitting, people kept standing up.

In these two sentences, we cannot simply swap out s'asseoir for être assis. It is not a question of which one is used more often because it would fundamentally change the meaning of the sentence. 

I fear that this is probably not the answer you're after, but I can't stress enough that these are not synonyms.


I genuinely hope this helps,


   -   Mitchell



Bonjour Mitchell,

Yes, your stressing the difference in meaning between the two verbs is very worthwhile, and your example illustrates one of the problems very well. Take your second sentence by itself:

Pendant que j'étais assis, les gens n'arrêtaient pas de se lever. It's obvious what you mean in French.

But in the English translation, While I was sitting, people kept standing up, it's not, because it's not clear if you were already seated, or actively trying to sit down (j'essayais de m'asseoir). I vote for this necessarily being translated as, While I was seated, people kept standing up (if that is, indeed what you mean).

So, yes, I think the way être assise is commonly translated is confusing, not just in your example, but in the dictionary. In French, the meaning is clear according to the choice of verb, while it's (what seems to me to be) the loose translation that muddies things up like it is in English.


It's worth noting though, that I think your translation of être assis is actually too strict. Doesn't it also apply to the situation where you've simply been assigned a seat , which is clearly passive voice? As in,

Tout ce que je sais, c'est que nous sommes assis à la grande table. (être assis)

(All I know is, we are seated at the big table.)

It's this passive usage that actually got me into this in the first place. My first question was in regard to, do the French typically use the passive voice (être assis) in this case? Or, might they opt for something like:

Tout ce que je sais, c'est que nous allons nous asseoir à la grande table. (s'asseoir)

(All I know is, we are going to sit at the big table.)

which is very likely in English.




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