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Passé composé - French Compound Past Tense

The most common French past tense

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The passé composé is the most common French past tense, often used in conjunction with the imperfect. The passé composé can express any of the following:

I. An action completed in the past

   As-tu étudié ce weekend ?
   Did you study this weekend?

   Ils ont déjà mangé.
   They have already eaten.

II. An action repeated a number of times in the past

   Oui, j'ai mangé cinq fois hier.
   Yes, I did eat five times yesterday.

   Nous avons visité Paris plusieurs fois.
   We've visited Paris several times.

III. A series of actions completed in the past

   Quand je suis arrivé, j'ai vu les fleurs.
   When I arrived, I saw the flowers.

   Samedi, il a vu sa mère, a parlé au médicin et a trouvé un chat.
   Saturday he saw his mother, talked to the doctor, and found a cat.

Related lesson: Repeating auxiliary verbs


The passé composé has three possible English equivalents. For example, j'ai dansé can mean
  1. I danced   (simple past)
  2. I have danced   (present perfect)
  3. I did dance   (past emphatic)

Go on to page 2 to learn how to conjugate the passé composé.

Passé composé quiz

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