How is the passé composé formed in French? -

How is the passé composé formed in French?

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How is the passé composé formed in French?


  • The need for your study
  • How to form the passé composé?
  • When is ‘Être’ used?
  • Remember

Something that all basic-level French learners have to learn is how to form the passé composé (past compound) . It seems easy at first (Subject + Avoir or Être + Past Participle), but when we start to speak, when do we have to think about which one to use if avoir or être, and at what moment should the passé composé or the impartial  (imperfect) be used and which are the past participles of irregular verbs, that’s when things get a bit complicated.

The need for your study

In this post we will try to give a simple but useful explanation, in the event that you have a problem in this regard, either at school, in high school or even in a language school and why not, it will also help you and a lot if you study French on your own. In any case, our intention is to resolve any doubts you may have in this regard so that you can succeed in an exam.

How to form the passé composé?

 Naturally, it is essential to handle with ease both the verb AVOIR and ÊTRE , which are part of the composition of the passé composé, essential to carry out an accurate conjugation.

Since AVOIR is an auxiliary verb , most of the French verbs are built with it and together with it they are also formed with the past participle of the irregular verbs that end with “er” (FIRST GROUP) that is formed by canceling the “r” final at the same time that the “é” is accentuated and in “ir” (SECOND GROUP) omitting the r, remaining at the same time without an accent. Such are the cases of alerder (regardé), écouter (écouté) choisir (choisi ) (look , listen choose)

  • J’ai mangé / (I have eaten)
  • Tu as mangé / (You have eaten)
  • Il a mangé / (He has eaten)
  • Nous avons mangé / (We have eaten)
  • Vous avez mangé / (You have eaten)
  • Ils ont mangé / (They have eaten)

In the event that we are faced with irregular verbs or of the third group, that is, verbs ending in “oir”, “re” and some in “ir”, it may happen that the forms vary considerably from one verb to another. Here is a list

In the case that they are irregular verbs or of the THIRD GROUP (verbs ending in -oir, -re and some in -ir), the forms can vary a lot from one verb to another. Here is a list of the participle forms.

  • Vouloir – Voulu / (want – dear)
  • Pouvoir – Pu / (power – could)
  • Savoir – His / (know – Known)
  • Voir – Vu / (See – seen)
  • Faire – Fait / (Do – done)
  • Mettre – Mis / (put – put)
  • Finir – Fini / (Finish – Finished)
  • Avoir – Eu / (Have – had)
  • Dire – Dit / (say – said)
  • Prendre – Pris / (take – taken)


The best way to learn the past participles of each verb is to do it by heart

As an example, the verb faire conjugated in passé compossé looks like this:

  • J’ai fait / (I have done)
  • Tu as fait / (You have done)
  • Il a fait / (He has done)
  • Nous avons fait / ( We have done)
  • Vous avez fait / (You have done)
  • Ils ont fait / (they have done)

Once we have learned the formula to study the particulate of irregular verbs, we can now handle the passé composé through the verb avoir. Now it is a question of learning with which verbs to use the Être.

When is Être used?

Although the vast majority of verbs are conjugated with AVOIR for the passé composé, in the cases of verbs that indicate action or movement, the ÊTRE must be used

The list of verbs that are used with the verb ÊTRE is as follows (as you can see, some are regular and others are irregular):

  • Naître (né), Aller (allé), Descendre (Descendu), Monter (Monté), Arriver (Arrivé), Venir (Venu), Entrer (Entré), Passer (Passé), Partir (Parti), Rester (Resté), Sortir (Sorti), Tomber (Tombé), Retourner (Retourné), Mourir (Mort).
  • Born (born), go (go), go down (go down), go up (go up), arrive (arrive), come (come), enter (in), pass (pass), leave (go), stay (stay), Exit (Exit), Fall (Fall), Return (Return), Die (Death).


Passé composé


arriverI arrivedarrived
venirvenuI come
DepartI leftleft
resterI subtractedleft
sortsortistepped out

The general rule is that when we are going to conjugate verbs in passé composé with the verb être, there must be gender and number concordance.

Take due caution :

When conjugating verbs in passé composé with the verb être, there must be a match between GENDER AND NUMBER.

  • Marie est retournée chez moi / (Mary returned home)
  • Nous sommes descended (e) s dans la rue. / (We went out to the street)


The compound past is the most commonly used past tense in the modern French language. It is used to express an action that has been completed completely or incompletely at the time of speech, or at some point in the past.

How is the past tense formed? To put a verb in the past, you must choose the correct auxiliary être ou avoir (to be or to have) and conjugate it in the present tense.

  • The Passé composé : refers to specific actions, which happened in the past, that is to say, fait accompli, both near and far. Example: La semaine dernière, J’ai mangé trop de calories (Last week, I ate too many calories)
  • L’imparfait : it is used to refer to actions that were developed in a past time, but that are continuous processes. Example: Il étais un bon homme (He was a good man). Also for common facts: Quand j’etais petit, je irrdais la télé tout le temps (When I was little I watched television all the time).

Finally, remind you that these are the next available calls to obtain your official French qualification.

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