Passé Composé

The Basics

 

The passé composé consists of 2 parts.

Auxiliaire + Participe Passé = Passé Composé

 

Example:

J'ai parlé

(I spoke)

 

"ai" - auxiliaire (the auxiliaire is avoir in this instance

"parlé" participe passé

 

The passé composé is used to describe events in the past tense. J'ai parlé (I spoke) is referring to an action that has already been done.

 

Auxiliaire

 

There are two options of verbs you can use for the auxiliaire. These verbs are Avoir and Être. You would simply use the conjugated form of these verbs (in the present) as the auxiliaire. For those of you who do not know these conjugations, here is a list:

 

Avoir - Être

 

J' - ai Je - suis

Tu - as Tu - es

Il/Elle/On - a Il/Elle/On - est

Nous - avons Nous - sommes

Vous - avez        Vous - êtes

Ils/Elles - ont Ils/Elles - sont

 

Using Avoir as an auxiliaire:

 

Simply put the conjugated version of avoir before the participe passé and you are good to go.

For the sake of simplicity, we will explain être lower down this page.

 

Endings

 

There are different endings for different verbs:

er verbs = é (e.g. Parler becomes parlé, jouer becomes joué)

ir verbs = i (e.g. Finir becomes fini, choisir becomes choisi)

re verbs = u (e.g. répondre becomes répondu, descendre becomes descendu)

 

To change an infinitive verb into the participe passé, you need to replace the original ending with the new one (parler - "er" becomes "é" - parlé)

 

Irregular Verbs

As always in french, there are exeptions to rules, with the passé composé you must memorize the following list of irregular verbs and their participe passé:

Avoir – eu

Être – été

Faire-fait

Prendre – pris

Devoir – du

Vouloir – voulu

Pouvoir – pu

Lire – lu

Dire – dit

Écrire – écrit

Mettre – mis

Voir – vu

Savoir – su

Commettre – commis

Découvrir - Découvert

Offrir – offert

Apparaitre – apparu

Venir - venu

 

Using Etre as an Auxiliaire

This is where things get slightly more complicated.

Basically, instead of using avoir, you use être. Only specific verbs use the auxiliaire être. The list is:

 

Devenir (To Become) - Devenu

Revenir (To Return) - Revenu

 

Monter (To Climb) - Monté

Retourner (To Return) - Retourné

Sortir (To Go Out) - Sorti

 

Venir (To Come) - Venu

Aller (To Go) - Allé

Naître (To Be Born) - Né

Descendre (To Go Down) - Descendu

Entrer (To Enter) - Entré

Rentrer (To Return) - Rentré

 

Tomber (To Fall) - Tombé

Rester (To Stay) - Resté

Arriver (To arrive) - Arrivé

Mourir (To Die) - Mort

Partir (To Leave) - Parti

 

With these verbs, the participe passé is still the same conjugation, except (depending on the subject) you have to add more things to the end.

If the sentence refers to:

 

Masculine singular: Do not add anything to the end of the participe passé (lets call it the pp for short) (Il est tombé)

 

Feminine singular: Add an e to the end of the pp (Elle est tombée)

 

Masculine plural: Add an s to the end of the pp (Ils sont tombés)

 

Feminine plural: Add an es to the end of the pp (Elles sont tombées)

 

If the subject is unclear (e.g. all it says is vous or nous without specifying male or female, singular or plural) you would put all of the possible endings in brackets. Here is an example:

 

Je suis tombé (e)

Tu es tombé (e)

Il est tombé

Elle est tombée

Nous sommes tombé (s) (es)

Vous êtes tombé (e) (s) (es)

Ils sont tombés

Elles sont tombées

 

Look hard in the sentence for clues as to whether the subject is masculine or feminine, because the french teachers like to add small details that could drastically change your answer (e.g. Mes amis is masculine, but mes amies is feminine. small details like that could make or break a perfect score)

 

Practice Questions from Unit 2 Grammer Test

 

Écris le verbes au passé composé.

 

1. (Disparaître) L'enfant ___________.

2. (ne...pas comprendre) Nous ___________ la question.

3. (Découvrir) On ___________ un paquet mystérieux.

4. (Avoir) Elles ___________ la chair de poule.

5. (Ecrire) Qui ___________ ce roman?

 

Answers:

 

1. a disparu

2. n'avons pas compris

3. a découvert

4. ont eu

5. a écrit