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Passé composé - French Compound Past Tense

The most common French past tense


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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