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Pass Compos

The pass compos is the most commonly used past tense in French. While its construction and
meaning is more similar to the English present perfect, in general, it performs a similar role to
both the present perfect as well as simple past.
A. Use
The pass compose is generally used to talk about completed/precise actions in the past. As
such, it is thus the main tense used for narration in the past, or to talk about actions in the past
that happened at a specific time.
B. Forming pass compos
Before learning about how the pass compose is formed, one must know perfectly the present
tense conjugations of both tre (to be) and avoir(to have), as given below.

Je
Tu
Il/Elle/On
Nous
Vous
Ils/Elles

tre
suis
es
est
sommes
tes
sont

avoir
ai
as
a
avons
avez
ont

It is important to know these, because pass compose is a composed tense, made up of the
combination of an auxiliary verb (either tre or avoir) and a participle.
Therefore, pass compose is roughly formed like this:
[Conjugation of tre or avoir] + participle of main verb = Correct pass compose form
C. Participles
The past participle is unique for every verb.
1. For all -er verbs, the participle ends with -
Therefore, travailler travaill
manger mang
penser pens

2. For all second group -ir verbs, the participle ends with -i
Therefore, finir fini
choisir choisi

3. For third group verbs (both -ir and -re), there is no single system for forming the
participle. You will need to get familiar with them through gradual exposure and
practice. Participles for some commonly used verbs are given below.

vouloir voulu

faire fait

dire dit

pouvoir pu

rpondre repondu

prendre pris

venir venu

avoir eu

savoir su

voir vu

tre t

connatre connu

D. Choosing and Using Auxiliary verbs:


There are two auxiliary verbs for pass compose. Of these, avoir is generally used as the
auxiliary for most verbs.
The auxiliary tre is only used for the following 14 verbs (meaning and participle given in 2nd
and 3rd columns respectively)
Verb
monter
descendre
aller
venir
arriver
partir
passer
tomber
rester
retourner
entrer
sortir
natre
mourir

Meaning in English
to climb
to decend
to go
to come
to arrive
to leave
to pass
to fall
to stay
to return
to enter
to go out
to be born
to die

Participle (basic form)


mont
descend
all
venu
arrive
parti
pass
tomb
rest
retourn
entr
sorti
n
mort

Note 1: Whenever you use reflexive forms of verbs in pass compos, you must always use
tre as the auxiliary verb.
For example, you must always say: Je me suis reveill 6 heures. (I woke up at 6 oclock.)
Note 2: Whenever you use tre as the auxiliary verb, the participle behaves as an adjective,
and changes to masculine/feminine and singular/plural, according to the subject.
Example 1: Various versions of the sentence We have come from Delhi.
a. Nous sommes venus de Delhi. (Where nous is a group of men or a mixed group)
b. Nous sommes venues de Delhi. (Where nous is a group of women)
Example 2: a. Marie est tombe sur lescalier. (Marie has fallen on the stair.)
b. Henri est tomb sur lescalier. (Henri has fallen on the stair.)
Example 3: a. Elle sest reveille 6 heures. (She woke up at 6 oclock.)
b. Il sest reveill 6 heures. (He woke up at 6 oclock.)

E. Other examples in sentences:


1. En 1946, je suis all a Londres. (In 1946, I went to London.)
2. Nous avons travaill D E Shaw. (We have worked at D E Shaw.)
3. Elle a mang les fruits. (She has eaten the fruits.)
4. Vous tes descendues dans la grotte. (You descended into the cave).
5. Jai fini mon travail. (I have finished my work.)
6. Elle est ne en 1998. (She was born in 1998.)