Lesson 12 – Passé Composé

Leçon 12 – Passé Composé

French has several ways to express a past event. The most important and most useful tense form of the past tense in French is le passé composé. It corresponds to the English simple past tense (I saw, I had, I began), as well as to the English present perfect (I have finished, I have purchased, I have been).

Forming the Passé Composé

The passé composé of most verbs is formed by using the present tense of the verb avoir (to have) and the past participle. The past participle ends in –é for verbs that end in –er (parler, parlé), in –i for verbs that end in –ir (finir, fini), and in –u for verbs that end in –re (vendre, vendu).
Verbs ending in –er

  • j’ai visité – I visited, I have visited
  • tu as visité – you visited, you have visited
  • il/elle/on visité – he/she/we visited, have visited
  • nous avons visité – we visited, have visited
  • vous avez visité – you visited, have visited
  • ils/elles visité – they visited, have visited

 

Verbs ending in –ir

  • j’ai choisi – I chose, have chosen
  • tu as choisi – you chose, have chosen
  • il/elle/on choisi – he/she/we chose, have chosen
  • nous avons choisi – we chose, have chosen
  • vous avez choisi – you chose, have chosen
  • ils/elles ont choisi – they chose, have chosen

 

Verbs ending in –re

  • j’ai perdu – I lost, have lost
  • tu as perdu – you lost, have lost
  • il/elle/on – perdu he/she/we lost, have lost
  • nous avons perdu – we lost, have lost
  • vous avez perdu – you lost, have lost
  • ils/elles ont perdu – they lost, have lost

Verbs With Irregular Past Participles

Infinitive Past Participle

s’asseoir (to be seated) – assis (seated)

avoir (to have) – eu (had)

boire (to drink) – bu (drunk)

conduire (to conduct) – conduit (conducted)

connaître (to know) – connu (known)

courir (to run) – couru (run/ran)

croire (to believe) – cru (believed)

devoir (to owe; must) – dû (ought)

dire (to say, tell) – dit (said, told)

être (to be) – été (been, was)

écrire (to write) – écrit (wrote, written)

faire (to do, make) – fait (done, made)

lire (to read) – lu (read)

mettre (to put) – mis (put)

mourir (to die) – mort (died)

naître (to be born) – né (born)

offrir (to offer) – offert (offered)

ouvrir (to open) – ouvert (opened)

partir (to leave) – parti (left)

pouvoir (to be able to) – pu (been able to)

prendre (to take) – pris (taken, took)

recevoir (to receive) – reçu (received)

rire (to laugh) – ri (laughed)

savoir (to know) – su (known)

venir (to come) – venu (came)

voir (to see) – vu (seen, saw)

vouloir (to want) – voulu (wanted)

 

Verbs Which Use être as the Auxiliary Verb

The following verbs use être instead of avoir as the auxiliary verb to form the passé composé.

aller (to go)

arriver (to arrive)

descendre (to descend)

devenir (to become)

entrer (to enter)

monter (to go up)

mourir (to die)

naître (to be born)

partir (to leave)

rentrer (to return)

rester (to remain, to stay)

retourner (to return)

revenir (to come back)

sortir (to go out)

tomber (to fall)

venir (to come)

 

The past participle of verbs conjugated with être as the auxiliary verb change endings to agree in gender and number with the subject of the verb. If the subject is feminine singular, an –e is added to the past participle. If the subject is masculine plural, an –s is added, and if feminine plural, an –es is added. These changes do not affect pronunciation (except in the case of the verb mourir past participle- mort, morts, morte, mortes. The addition of the –e in the feminine singular and plural form causes the –t to be sounded).

 

Some examples:

  • je suis sorti (masculine) – I left, have left
  • je suis sortie (feminine) – I left, have left
  • tu es né (masculine) – you were born
  • tu es née (feminine) – you were born
  • ils sont descendus – (masculine plural) they descended, have descended
  • elles sont descendues – (feminine plural) they descended, have descended

 

Ils sont arrivés hier et sont allés tout de suite au consulat américain.

They arrived yesterday and went immediately to the American consulate.

Nous sommes restés longtemps.

We stayed a long time.

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