French Grammar: The Passé Composé (Past Tense) – Basics

French Grammar: The Passé Composé (Past Tense)

French Grammar: The Passé Composé (Past Tense) – Overview
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Identify:

French Grammar: The Passé Composé (Past Tense) – Basics
la grammaire française : une introduction au passé composé

When speaking about the past in English, you choose which past tense to use depending on the context and the meaning you wish to convey. In French sentences, you choose which past tense to use depending on the meaning you wish to convey.

Study:

When speaking about the past in English, you choose which past tense to use depending on the context and the meaning you wish to convey. In French sentences, you choose which past tense to use depending on the meaning you wish to convey.

The Passé Composé is the most common past tense in French.  It is used to express an action or event (or a series of actions or events) completed in the past.  The Passé Composé is composed of two parts: (1) the present tense of the auxiliary (or “helping”) verb, and (2) the past participle of the main verb (i.e., the verb that conveys the true meaning).

For the majority of French verbs, the passé composé is formed with the auxiliary (“helping”) verb “AVOIR”.  A relatively small number of French verbs form the passé composé with the auxiliary (“helping”) verb “ÊTRE”.

The passé composé has three possible English translations. For example, j’ai joué can mean:

I played   (simple past)

I have played   (present perfect)

I did play   (past emphatic)

The Passé Composé (Past Tense) is used in the following instances:

1. Completed actions in the past:

Hier, j’ai étudié la leçon.
Yesterday, I studied the lesson.

2. Series of events or actions completed in the past:

La semaine passée, je suis allé en Floride, j’ai nagé dans l’océan et j’ai dormi.
Last week I went to Florida, I swam in the ocean, and I slept.

3. Key words associated with past time
(hier, avant-hier, hier soir, une fois, tout à coup…)

Hier soir j’ai dansé avec mon mari.
Last night, I danced with my husband.

Adapt: 

Tu as travaillé hier?
Did you work yesterday?

Oui, j’ai travaillé hier.
Yes, I worked yesterday.

Tu as fini les devoirs?
Did you finish the homework?

Non, je n’ai pas encore fini les devoirs.
No, I have not finished the homework yet.

Ils ont vendu leurs livres à la fin du semestre?
Did they sell their books at the end of the semester?

Oui, ils ont vendu leurs livres à la fin du semestre.
Yes, they sold their books at the end of the semester.

À quelle heure est-ce que tu es arrivée ce matin?
What time did you arrive this morning?

Je suis arrivée à huit heures et quart.
I arrived at 8:15.

Explore:


Creative Commons LicenseThe LEAF Project
www.leaflanguages.org
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike