Passé, I am sorry, composé or past complex compound tense

The French use this tense to refer to the completed time in the past. Passé composé is similar to English Past Simple. And the name of this tense is translated like this: passé - past and composé - complex compound. But do not get scared too fast! It is called so simply because it consists of two parts - the verb avoir or être in the present tense and the past participle. And from the point of view of logic - everything is simple! So, let's " unscramble " our beautiful - Passé composé.

Verb conjugation in the past complex tense takes place with the help of the verb participle participe passé. It is a part of other complex tenses too. But we will talk about this later, in our subsequent useful materials. Remember that verbs in French are divided into groups? To refresh your knowledge we suggest to refer to our article here.

So, for the 1st group of verbs, it suffices to add to the basis of the verb , for example:

manger — mang + é = mangé;

acheter — achet + é = acheté;

penser — pens + é = pensé.

For verbs of the 2nd group, another method is used, namely, adding to the basis -i:

grandir — grand + i = grandi;

jaunir — jaun + i = jauni;

finir — fin + i = fini.

But, for the 3rd group there is no single recipe. Form of the past participle can be found practically in any book on the French language. Also, we offer you a table of some irregular verbs with participle passé and examples of use.

Verb conjugation in the passé composé with avoir and être

With avoir

With être

demander — to ask

finir — to finish

venir — to come

se lever — to get up

j’ai demandé —

I asked

j’ai fini — I finished

je suis venu (e)* —

I came

je me suis levé (e)* —

I got up

tu as demandé —

You asked

tu as fini — you finished

tu es venu (e)* —

you came

tu t’es levé (e)* — you got up

il a demandé — He asked

il a fini — he finished

il est venu —

he came

il s’est levé — he got up

elle a demandé — She asked

elle a fini — she finished

elle est venue —

she came

elle s’est levée — she got up

nous avons demandé — we asked

nous avons fini — we finished

nous sommes

venu (e)*s —

we came

nous nous sommes levé(e)*s —

we got up

vous avez demandé — you asked

vous avez fini —

you finished

vous étes venu (e)*s** —  you came

vous vous étes

levé (e)* (s)** — you got up

ils ont demandé — они спросили

ils ont fini — they finished

ils sont venus — they came

ils se sont levés —

they got up

elles ont demandé —

they asked

elles ont fini — they finished

elles sont venues —

they came

elles se sont levées —

they got up

* Feminine.

** Plural.

Let's return once again to the auxiliary verbs avoir and être. So, in order to determine which of them is used to conjugate our verb we need to remember a small rule.

The être verb conjugates with:

1) reflexive verbs;

2) verbs of motion;

3) the verbs of transition to states;

aller – to go

arriver – to arrive

descendre – to go down, get off (from the car and other vehicles)

décéder - to die

devenir - to become

éclore – to hatch (from the egg), to blossom

entrer – to enter

monter - to rise, to get on (to the vehicle)

mourir - to die

naître – to be born

partir - to leave, to go

rester - to stay

rentrer – to return

revenir – to come back

sortir – to go out, to drive out

tomber – to fall

venir - to come

When conjugated with être, participle passé changes its gender and number:

Je me suis assis devant la fenêtre et je me suis mis au travail. - I sat down in front of the window and started to work.

Nous nous sommes couchés à dix heures. - We went to bed at ten o'clock.

Elle est née en Suisse en 1985. - She was born in Switzerland in 1985.

Les diplomates sont partis pour Vienne par le train. - Diplomats left for Vienna by train.

Quand est-il sorti du bureau? - When did he leave the office?

Les participants de l'expédition sont tombés malades l'un après l'autre. - Members of the expedition fell ill one after another.


The remaining verbs subordinate to our beloved - avoir:

J'ai eu une idée brillante. - I had a brilliant idea.

Nous avons reçu un télégramme et un colis. - We received a telegram and a parcel.

Pourquoi n'as-tu pas tenu ta parole? - Why did not you keep your word?


Some adverbs and pronouns can take place between the auxiliary verb and the participle. These are bien, beaucoup, tout, déjà encore (the last in negative form).

As-tu bien dormi? – Did you sleep well?

Aujourd'hui nous avons beaucoup travaillé. - Today we worked hard.

J'ai tout compris. - I got it.

Les ouvriers ont déjà fini le travail. - The workers have already finished their work.

Ils n'ont pas encore réparé l'auto. - They have not fixed the car yet.


Participle changes its gender and number only if there is a direct object expressed by pronouns.

As-tu vu le fi lm animé? - Oui, je l'ai vu. - Have you watched this cartoon? - Yes, I have.

Avez-vous lu la revue? - Non, je ne l'ai pas lue. - Have you read the magazine? - No, I have not read it. ("The magazine" in French is of a feminine gender, therefore the ending of the feminine gender at the participle appears.)

Ont-ils discuté tous les problèmes? - Oui, ils les ont discutés. - Did they discuss all the problems? - Yes, they discussed them. (The plural number of the masculine gender is manifested in the object with the help of the ending s.) Note that the "problem" is masculine in French.)

Ont-elles écrit toutes les paroles? - Non, elles ne les ont pas écrites. - Did they write all the words? - No, they did not write them. (Here is the feminine participle in the plural.)

Les questions que nous vous avons posées ne sont pas très diffi ciles. - The questions you asked are not very difficult. (The female participle in the plural, as it agrees with the word "questions".)


The French have a number of verbs that can be conjugated with both avoir and être. These are descendre, monter, rentrer, sortir. They conjugate with the verb avoir if they become transitional and change the meaning.

Descendre - 1) to demolish down, to lower; 2) to descend (l'escalier - down the stairs). Note that the Russian verb is intransitive, and in French it is transitive.

Monter - 1) to lift, 2) to collect, mount, 3) to go up in combination with l'escalier (go up the stairs), la rue (go up the street), la rivière (go up the river).

Rentrer – to take inside.

Sortir – to take out, to release.


Le garçon est descendu au rez-de-chaussée. - The boy went down to the first floor.

Le garçon a descendu l'escalier. - The boy went down the stairs.

Les voyageurs sont descendus du wagon. - The passengers left the car

Le porteur a descendu mes bagages. - The porter dumped down my luggage.

La jeune fille est montée au deuxième étage en ascenseur. - The girl went up to the third floor by the elevator.

La jeune fille a monté l'escalier. - The girl went up the stairs.

Nous sommes montés dans le wagon et avons occupé nos places. - We got up (sat down) in the car and took our seats.

Les techniciens ont monté la machine en trois jours. - The technicians mounted the car in three days.

Mes parents sont rentrés à neuf heures. - My parents returned at nine o'clock.

Ils ont rentré les meubles. - They brought in furniture.

Mon voisin a rentré sa voiture dans le garage. - My neighbor put the car in the garage.

Je suis sorti de la maison et allé à l'université. - I left the house and went to university.

Elle a sorti son mouchoir et séché les larmes. - She pulled out her handkerchief and wiped away her tears.

L'usine d'automobiles a sorti le premier Citroën au mois de mai. - The Automobile Plant produced the first Citroën in May.

Well, here we got to know with one of the past tenses in French. But do not rush to grieve - the French, in oral speech use only three past tenses, and we have already met one of them. And the rest exist mainly in written, literary speech.

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