Passer can be used with avoir or être in Le Passé Composé... and changes meaning

Most verbs use either avoir or être as the auxiliary verb in Passé composé (or other compound tense)but passer uses both, depending on its grammatical usage* and what it means in the sentence.
 
*Grammaphile's Corner : the technical grammatical distinction between these cases is actually whether the verb is used in a transitive or intransitive manner. 
- The transitive version (the version with a direct object) uses avoir.
- The intransitive version (lacking a direct object), uses être.
 

être + passé [devant, par, chez, etc]

= pass by [something/somewhere]
= go past [something/somewhere]
= stop by [somewhere]
= pop by [somewhere]

Je suis passé par la maison en allant au travail.
I passed by the house on the way to work.

Elle est passée chez Laurent hier.
She passed by Laurent's place yesterday.

Est-elle passée par la pharmacie comme je lui ai demandé?
Did she pop by the pharmacy as I asked her?

Nous sommes passés devant la poste.
We went past the post office.

Note that in each case where être is the auxilliary, the verb passer is followed by a preposition (en, sur, dans, à etc.).  
In these cases passer is usually about passing by something, going past something, stopping or popping by somewhere.

(See also Agreeing past participle with subject's gender and number with (+ être) verbs in Le Passé Composé)
 

avoir + passé [quelque chose]

= spend [time]
= take [a test or exam] 
= pass [something] to [someone]

J'ai passé l'été dernier en Italie.
I spent last summer in Italy.

J'ai passé mon examen hier.
I took my exam yesterday.

Il a passé le sel à son père.
He passed the salt to his father.

When passer is followed immediately by a noun (as opposed to a preposition), it uses avoir as the auxiliary, like most verbs.  
 
It can be very tricky to get the distinction here if you think in terms of what passer means in English (English verbs are very often 'prepositional', meaning we say things like to climb on a horse as well as mount a horse which are equivalent in meaning but grammatically very different - our verbs very often have prepositions where they don't in French!).
 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Est-elle passée par la pharmacie comme je lui ai demandé?
Did she pop by the pharmacy as I asked her?


Nous sommes passés devant la poste.
We went past the post office.


J'ai passé mon examen hier.
I took my exam yesterday.


Elle est passée chez Laurent hier.
She passed by Laurent's place yesterday.


J'ai passé l'été dernier en Italie.
I spent last summer in Italy.


Es-tu passé par la boulangerie?
Did you stop by the bakery?


Il a passé le sel à son père.
He passed the salt to his father.


Je suis passé par la maison en allant au travail.
I passed by the house on the way to work.


Q&A Forum 6 questions, 11 answers

HeatherB1Kwiziq community member

Passer par used with chez

When expressing the idea of passing by or popping into someone’s place is par always needed as well as chez? Examples in this lesson and the other on different uses of passer differ. 

Elle est passée chez Laurent hier. She passed by Laurent’s place yesterday.

Yann passera par chez Laura après le travail. Yann will pass by Laura’s place after work.

Asked 1 month ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Heather, 

To me it means something slightly different.

Passer chez quelqu'un means to pop into drop by someone's place 

Whereas passer par chez quelqu'un  / Paris / la rue St Honoré

is to go through, to go via or to pass by a place 

Hope this helps!

 

Passer par used with chez

When expressing the idea of passing by or popping into someone’s place is par always needed as well as chez? Examples in this lesson and the other on different uses of passer differ. 

Elle est passée chez Laurent hier. She passed by Laurent’s place yesterday.

Yann passera par chez Laura après le travail. Yann will pass by Laura’s place after work.

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JustinB1Kwiziq community member

Se passer de

How would it work with this? Avoir or être?

Asked 2 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Justin,

It would use ‘être’ like all reflexive verbs. 

Je me suis passé/e de pain hier = I went without bread yesterday 

Hope this helps!

Se passer de

How would it work with this? Avoir or être?

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BillC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

A little confused on être passer par/chez

Do either or both of these always imply one of either passing by without entering a place vs passing by and entering.  Some of the examples seem to indicate the former whereas others (la pharmacie par exemple) seem to imply the latter.

thank you

Asked 9 months ago

A little confused on être passer par/chez

Do either or both of these always imply one of either passing by without entering a place vs passing by and entering.  Some of the examples seem to indicate the former whereas others (la pharmacie par exemple) seem to imply the latter.

thank you

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HeyesC1Kwiziq community member

How does se passer differ from passer with être?

Asked 1 year ago
JimC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributorCorrect answer

Se passer has the meaning of to take place or to happen and takes être as does all pronominal verbs.

Passer can be used with a direct object (transitive) and takes avoir or with an indirect object (intransitive) and has to take être.

Hope this helps.

Alan

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Just to build upon Jim's explanation:

Je suis passé chez Élise. 
I passed by Élise's place. 
-> intransitive, hence être 

J'y ai passé beaucoup de temps. 
I spent a lot of time there. 
-> transitive, hence avoir 

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

HeyesC1Kwiziq community member
Yes, it does. Thank you.
JoanneB2Kwiziq community member

Hello,

If I want to say "I passed by Bob's house today," I would say, "Je suis passe chez Bob." Is that correct? If it is, I don't understand how "chez Bob" is an indirect object. Just a bit confused here. Thanks for any help you can provide.

How does se passer differ from passer with être?

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StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Could you also say "Nous sommes passés la poste." (without the preposition 'devant'.

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Stewart,

You can say,

Nous sommes passés à la poste - We went to the Post Office

Nous sommes passés devant la poste We went past the Post Office

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
No, I don't think the sentence "Nous sommes passés la poste" is proper French. There does seem to be the requirement of a preposition of some kind, although it doesn't have to be "devant". You could also say, "Nous sommes passés par la poste", for example. But other meanings of "être passé" don't require a preposition. For example: Le carburant est passé de l'état liquide à l'état gazeux. -- The fuel changed from liquid state to gaseous stat. Le temps est passé. -- Time's up. -- Chris (not a native speaker).
StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thanks Chris, I suspected that would be the answer but I wasn't sure.

Could you also say "Nous sommes passés la poste." (without the preposition 'devant'.

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AndrewC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Les cloches sont passées

Les cloches sont passées ce matin pour apporter les œufs de Pâques. The bells passed this morning to bring the Easter eggs. HINT: (In France, it's bells that bring the Easter eggs, not a bunny!) Is this expression idiomatic as the rules above dont seem to apply or have I missed something? Thanks.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Andrew ! No, here it's the case of passer meaning "to pass by", it's simply not followed by a prepositional group, but used on its own as an intransitive verb. ps: Look also at the meanings implied by the auxiliaries être or avoir :) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
AndrewC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Yes!!! That's great... that's what I hoped it meant!! (Or should that be "that's what I hoped it HAD meant??") LOL. Thanks.

Les cloches sont passées

Les cloches sont passées ce matin pour apporter les œufs de Pâques. The bells passed this morning to bring the Easter eggs. HINT: (In France, it's bells that bring the Easter eggs, not a bunny!) Is this expression idiomatic as the rules above dont seem to apply or have I missed something? Thanks.

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