Importance of semi-auxiliary verbs in the French language : Faire, Laisser

faire laisser auxuliary french verbs

How important are semi-auxiliary verbs in French language and what’s their status? Let’s get in touch with those verbs better and find out their role.

What is a semi-auxiliary verb ?

Before we start with presenting semi-auxiliary verbs in detail let`s present in short notions of auxiliary and semi-auxiliary verbs.

French helping verbs or auxiliary verbs (les auxiliaires) are verbs that can be conjugated in association with another verb to express a certain aspect of that verb’s action. The other verb, the lexical verb (le verbe lexical), is a verb conjugated in association with a helping verb.

Auxiliaries (être and avoir) are distinguished from other verbs because they are used to form grammatical constructions (like compound tenses or passive voice). Semantic enhancements induced by semi-auxiliaries are distinct from auxiliaries, which are utilized to construct grammatical structures.

Let’s see one of the examples where the verb avoir (to have) is used to form passé composé (past tense).

J`ai dormi.  

I slept.

In the next example, we will see how all tenses and moods of the passive voice are created using être (to be).

Cet actrice est aimé par son public.

This actress was loved by the public.

Semi-auxiliary verbs ( les verbes semi-auxiliaires)

Infinitives are used with semi-auxiliary verbs to change the tense, mood, or aspect of a verb. Because auxiliary verbs assist in creating compound tenses and moods, they are in contrast to semi-auxiliary verbs, which are used with infinitives to alter their meaning.

J`espère aller à Paris.                  

I hope to go in Paris.

Here is the list of the most used French semi-auxiliary verbs:

Venir               to arrive

Devoir             to be obliged/ required

Pouvoir           to be able to

Aller                to be going to do

Savoir             to know 

Faire               to accomplish         

Laisser            to allow

In today’s lesson, we will present to you the two most common French semi-auxiliary verbs: FAIRE and LAISSER.


To cause (to make an action) means the subject incites the action but does not take part in it him/herself. When he`s followed with an infinitive, faire is modifying the signification which follows him to indicate that action isn`t done by the subject but by someone else. We speak about periphrasis verbal factitive

Il fait relire ses poèmes.

He gave his poems in a lecture.

J`ai fait construire une maison.

I had a house built.

Except for its principal meaning, the verb faire used as a semi-auxiliary has two additional meanings: Faire voir ( to reveal) and Faire-savoir ( to inform).

Je lui ai fait voir mes tatouages.

I revealed to him my tattoos.

Elles nous ont fait savoir qu`elles n`arrivaient pas.

They informed us that they are not arriving.

Some pronominal forms like se faire followed by an infinitive are giving passive sense to a phrase.

Ils se sont fait gronder. ( Ils ont été grondés.)

They were scolded.


The verb laisser belongs to the same group as the verb faire, a factitive or causative type of verb.

Laisser quelqu’un + infinitive + quelque chose / To let someone + infinitive + something

Je l’ai laissé porter les boîtes. 

I let him carry the boxes.

Nous l’avons laissé dormir.

We let him sleep.

Here’s a witty song from France Gall, named ” Laisse tomber les filles”, to help you master this  semi-auxuliary verb.

To Sum Up

Slowly, we`re finishing today’s lesson. 

We hope that by reading this article you get a clue about the importance of auxiliary and semi-auxiliary verbs in French language. Verbs FAIRE and LAISSER are belonging to causative or factitive types of verbs, but be free to read other lessons about other semi-auxiliary verbs.

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