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How do I form the passé composé?

The passé composé is one of the past tense forms in French. It is used to describe events that happened and finished in the past - for example, I ate a sandwich is j'ai mangé un sandwich. To form the passé composé, you need two things: the auxiliary verb and the passé composé form of the verb you're trying to conjugate. 

The auxiliary verb will be 'avoir' or 'être'. Most French verbs take avoir - so, your first chunk of forming the passé composé is the present tense of this verb in whatever appropriate form for person. For example: j;'ai, tu as, il/elle/on a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont. 

There are a handful of French verbs that take être, however. There is an easy way to remember these: they are the DR MRS VANDERTRAMP verbs! Devenir, revenir, monter, rester, sortir, venir, aller, naître, descendre, entrer, rentrer, tomber, retourner, arriver, mourir, partir. It might seem like a lot to remember but if you keep trying to memorise you will be fine! Here you just use the present tense form of être like you did with avoir - so, je suis, il/elle/on est, nous sommes, vouz êtes, ils/elles sont. 

For regular French verbs forming the passé composé is quite easy for the next step - ER verbs need their ER chopping off, and an é adding on. IR verbs have their IR chopped off and an is added. RE verbs have their RE chopped and replaced with a u. For example: manger = mangé, finir = fini, rendre = rendu. There are quite a few irregular verbs such as faire, boire, even the auxiliary verbs themselves are difficult - but with practise we can memorise them and they'll stick in our brains! 

In terms of agreeing our passé composé, the verb at the end doesn't need to agree with the subject (eg je or elle) unless the auxiliary verb is être. 

EG: j'ai mangé une pomme et elle a mangé une pomme VS je suis sorti et elle est sortie. 

Happy conjugating!!

Maddison S. A Level French tutor, GCSE French tutor, GCSE English tut...

4 months ago

Answered by Maddison, a GCSE French tutor with MyTutor


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