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French Past Tenses and Perfect Tenses

There are a number of past tenses in French, and each one has its own particular meaning and uses.

Passé composé
The passé composé is the most common French past tense, often used in conjunction with the imperfect.

French Imperfect
The French imperfect (imparfait) is a descriptive past tense which indicates an ongoing state of being or a repeated or incomplete action.

French Past Tenses - Passé composé vs Imperfect
During the first year of French study, every student becomes aware of the troublesome relationship between the two main past tenses: imperfect and passé composé. This lesson compares and contrasts the usage of these two French verb tenses.

Recent Past
Use this verbal construction to talk about something that just happened.

French Past Participle
The participe passé is the French equivalent of the -ed form of English verbs. It is used in compound tenses, in the passive voice, and as an adjective.

Passé simple
The passé simple is the literary equivalent of the passé composé, used only in formal writing and speech. Learn all about the French passé simple.

French Past Perfect - Pluperfect
The French past perfect, or pluperfect, is used to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action in the past

French Imperfect Subjunctive
The French imperfect subjunctive (imparfait du subjonctif) is a literary verb form used in formal writing, such as literature, journalism, and history. Like all literary verb forms, you really only need to be able to recognize it, not use it.

French Past Anterior
The French past anterior is the literary equivalent of the pluperfect. It is used in literature and historical accounts to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action in the past. Because it is a literary tense, you don't need to practice conjugating it, but it is important for you to be able to recognize it.

French Past Imperative - Impératif passé
The French past imperative gives a command for something that must be done before a certain time.

French Past Subjunctive
The past subjunctive is used for the same reasons as the present subjunctive - to express emotion, doubts, etc.

French Perfect Participle ~ Passé composé du participe présent
The French perfect participle gives a command for something that must be done before a certain time.

French Pluperfect Subjunctive
The French pluperfect subjunctive is the least common literary tense - it's the literary equivalent of the past subjunctive.Like all literary tenses, the pluperfect subjunctive is used only in literature, historical writings, and other very formal writing, so it is important to be able to recognize it but chances are that you will never in your...

French Conditional Perfect - Past Conditional
The French conditional perfect, or past conditional, is usually used just like the English conditional perfect: to express action that would have occurred if in the past circumstances had been different.

Second form of the French conditional perfect
The second form of the French conditional perfect is a rather strange verb tense/mood. It is the literary equivalent of the conditional perfect and can easily be mistaken for the pluperfect subjunctive, since they are conjugated identically.

French Future Perfect
The French future perfect is most commonly used to describe an action that will have happened or will be finished by a specific point in the future.

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