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French grammar - Past tense - Le passé composé

Past tense - Le passé composé

In French there are a couple of past tense forms. One of the most commonly used in everyday speech is le passé composé.

Le passé composé talks about specific actions that were completed in the past.

Le passé composé is constructed using an auxiliary verb (either avoir or être) and a past participle (le participle passé) of the verb that has been completed.

-- In this topic we will look just at using the auxiliary verb avoir.

The passé composé is formed by an auxiliary verb in its conjugated form, followed by a past participle.

The past participles of verbs follow certain patterns but can be highly irregular.

For regular -ER verbs the general rule is simple:

Drop the -er and add .

So for example manger ('to eat') mangé.

Rules for the other verb types and irregular verbs will be covered in the next few topics.

Examples:
J'ai mangé.
I ate.

Auxillary verb: avoir j'ai

Past participle: manger (drop -er and add ) mangé

Tu as parlé.
You (familiar) talked.

Auxillary verb: avoir tu as

Past participle: parler (drop -er and add ) parlé

Elle lui a demandé.
She asked him.

Auxillary verb: avoir elle a

Past participle: demander (drop -er and add ) demandé

Nous avons acheté des fleurs.
We brought some flowers.

Auxillary verb: avoir nous avons

Past participle: acheter (drop -er and add ) acheté

Avez-vous mangé ce matin ?
Did you (formal) eat this morning?

Auxillary verb: avoir vous avez

Past participle: manger (drop -er and add ) mangé

Elles ont habillé la poupée.
They (females) dressed the doll.

Auxillary verb: avoir elles ont

Past participle: habiller (drop -er and add ) habillé

Paul le lui a donné.
Paul gave it to him.

Auxillary verb: avoir il a

Past participle: donner (drop -er and add ) donné

Qu'est-ce que Paul lui a donné ?
What did Paul give to him?

Auxillary verb: avoir il a

Past participle: donner (drop -er and add ) donné

Qui sont ces gens qui t'ont prêté ce livre ?
Who those people who lent you that book?

Auxillary verb: avoir ils ont

Past participle: prêter (drop -er and add ) prêté

Nous avons passé un bon moment avec nos amis.
We had a great time with our friends.
As-tu commencé tes devoirs ?
Have you started your homework?
Avez-vous décidé quand vous partez en vacances ?
Have you decided when you are going on vacation?
J'ai visité Paris et Bordeaux avec ma famille l'été dernier.
I visited Paris and Bordeaux with my family last summer.
Avez-vous trouvé vos clés ?
Have you found your keys?
Ils ont regardé le décollage d'avion.
They watched the plane take off.
Nous avons nagé dans le lac.
We did not swim in the lake.

lac (m) means 'lake'

As-tu partagé du gâteau avec ta sœur ?
Did you share some cake with your sister?
Il m'a manqué de la farine.
I lacked flour.
Michael a rangé son bureau.
Michael tidied up his desk.

ranger (verb) means 'to tidy' or 'to put away'

Could be either 'desk' or 'office'

Nous avons tellement rigolé !
We laughed so much!

rigoler (verb) means 'to laugh' or 'to have fun' or 'to joke around'