DR MRS P. VANDERTRAMP (or Dr Mrs. Vandertrampp) and “The House of Être” is a commonly taught abbreviation and learning strategy to help French learners remember some verbs which use être as an auxiliary verb (as opposed to avoir). Looking more closely at DR MRS P. VANDERTRAMP, you will notice that these are all French movement verbs and the abbreviation certainly doesn’t cover every verb which uses être.
This article will go over what DR MRS P. VANDERTRAMP stands for, why it is needed in French, and what is “The House of Être”.
The doctor is in.
DR MRS P. VANDERTRAMP
Devenir (to become) past participle: devenu
Revenir (to come back) past participle: revenu
Venir (to come) past participle: venu
Aller (to go) past participle: allé
Naître (to be born) past participle: né
Descendre (to descend) past participle: descendu
Entrer (to enter) past participle: entré
Rentrer (to re-enter) past participle: rentré
Tomber (to fall) past participle: tombé
Retourner (to turn around) past participle: retourné
Arriver (to arrive / to come) past participle: arrivé
Mourir (to die) past participle: mort
Partir (to leave) past participle: parti
Application in French
So what’s all the fuss? Well, the VANDERTRAMP verbs use être as opposed to avoir when placed into the past tense. From the list of verbs above, the past participle is the word you would use after correctly conjugating être. DO NOT FORGET to make the past participle agree in accord with both the gender & number of the subjects! So, if whoever you are talking about is a girl then you must add an extra “e” to the end of the past participle, and if you’re talking about more than one person then you need to add an “s” to the past participle. One last caveat is that when there’s a mixed group of guys and girls, then you only need to denote plurality and not gender, add an “s” but forego adding an “e”.
Confusing? Here are some examples of Dr. Mrs P. Vandertramp at work to help you out:
Il est allé au parc hier.
He went to the park yesterday.
(not il a allé au parc hier).
Elle est allée au parc hier.
She went to the park yesterday.
(notice we add an extra “e”?)
Nous sommes rentré(e)s chez nous à minuit.
We returned home at midnight.
Vous (singular, formal) êtes né le même jour que moi!
You were born the same day as me!
If you are a girl, and you want to talk about yourself in the first person (“je”), you must add an extra “e” to the end of the past participle. See the following example:
Je suis tombée amoureuse de Marc.
I fell in love with Mark.
Pay attention to a common mistake with the verb sortir! When somebody is leaving you use “être”, but when you leave something (an object), you use “avoir”!
Mme. LeBlanc a sorti son iPhone sur la table.
Miss LeBlanc had left her iPhone on the table.
DR MRS VANDER-WHO?
Never heard of this abbreviation? You’re not alone! I know plenty of French learners who have learned in a more conventional fashion about which verbs take être. However, when I went over what the abbreviation means, many people seemed to have an “Oh! That’s useful” kind of expression on their face. The only problem about abbreviations is that you’ll end up spending a lot of time trying to remember which letters correspond to which words.
Nowadays, I don’t remember the abbreviation because the method worked; meaning, I remember by heart which verbs require être.The “House of Être” simply represents a house with arrows indicating the verbs which should be used. For example, the staircase inside the house will have an arrow pointing up (montre) and an arrow pointing down (descendre).
A lot of the verbs in the DR MRS P. VANDERTRAMP abbreviation have its opposite given as well (naître/mourir, entre/rentre, etc…).
Let us know if you learned Dr. Mrs. P. Vandertramp in school or how useful the acronym is for you?