A-level French/Verbs/PC

The passé composé is the most common way to talk in the past tense in French.

When to use the passé composé


Être and Avoir

14 être verbs
aller (to go) partir (to leave)
arriver (to arrive) passer (to pass)
descendre (to descend/ to go downstairs) rester (to stay)
entrer (to enter) retourner (to return)
monter (to climb) sortir (to go out)
mourir (to die) tomber (to fall)
naître (to be born) venir (to come)
To create the passé compose you need to conjugate the verbs être or avoir. Être (to be) Avoir (to have) Most verbs are conjugated with avoir, however, there are 14 common verbs that are conjugated with être.

You may have noticed that many of the 14 être verbs have to do with movement. Except naître (to be born) mourir (to die) and rester (to stay) these verbs are motion verbs. That doesn't mean however that all motion verbs use être in the passé composé. For instance, courir (to run) is conjugated with avoir.

The reason these verbs are être verbs is because they are intransitive, that is they don't have a direct object.

Examples of Intransitive Verbs (Etre verbs):

  • He stayed two hours after the party.
  • The leaf fell from the tree.
  • The children went to school in the morning.

Examples of Transitive Verbs (Avoir verbs):

(The verb is in bold and its object is in italics)

  • She picked up her purse.
  • The boy kicked the soccer ball.
  • Mother is making dinner tonight.
Conjugation of être (to be) Conjugation of avoir (to have)
Je suis Nous sommes J'ai Nous avons
Tu es Vous êtes Tu as Vous avez
Il/Elle/On est Ils/Elles sont Il/Elle/On a Ils/Elles ont

How to make the passé composé

Subject + Conjugation of être/avoir + past participle of the verb (to have) English translation
Tu as lu You have read
Nous avons mangé We ate/We have eaten
Il est allé He went

As you can see from the above table to form the passé composé you need to:

  1. Conjugate avoir or être
  2. change the verb to the past participle

In the next sections you will be able to see examples of the passé composé with avoir and être, learn how to form the past participle in regular verbs, and learn the past participle in the most common irregular verbs.

Avoir passé composé examples

  • Ils ont mangé. They have eaten.
  • J'ai dancé. I danced.
  • Il a vu un chat. He saw a cat.
  • Elle a vendu sa voiture. She sold her car.

Être passé composé examples

  • Je suis allé à la bibliothèque. I went to the library.
  • Ils sont venus après l'école. They came home after school.
  • La feuille est tombé de l'arbre. The leaf fell from the tree.
  • Il est resté à l'école à jouer au basket. He stayed after school to play basketball.

Forming the Past Participle


Regular ER Verbs

To form a past participle of –er verbs, drop the –er of the infinitives and add an é
Verb Drop ER Add É Past Participle English
manger mang - er mang + é mangé to eat
dancer danc - er danc + é dancé to dance
payer pay - er pay + é payé to pay

Regular IR Verbs

To form a past participle of –ir verbs, drop the –ir of the infinitives and add an i
Verb Drop IR Add I Past Participle English
finir fin - ir fin + i fini to finish
réussir réuss - ir réuss + i réussi to succeed
dormir dorm - ir dorm + i dormi to sleep

Regular RE Verbs

To form a past participle of –re verbs, drop the –re of the infinitives and add an u
Verb Drop RE Add U Past Participle English
perdre perd - re perd + u perdu to lose
vendre vend - re vend + u vendu to sell
répondre répond - re répond + u répondu to answer

Irregular Verbs


This is a list of some of the most common irregualr verbs and their past participles.

Verb Past Participle Verb Past Participle
avoir eu (had) boire bu (drank)
conduire conduit (driven, drove) connaître connu (known, knew)
courir couru (ran) croire cru (believed)
devoir dû (had to, owed) dire dit (said, told)
écrire écrit (written, wrote) être été (been, was)
faire fait (made, done, did) falloir fallu (had to, should, was necessary)
lire lu (read) mettre mis (put)
mourir mort (died) naître né (born)
ouvrir ouvert (opened) pleuvoir plu (rained)
pouvoir pu (was able to) prendre pris (took)
recevoir reçu (received) savoir su (knew)
venir venu (came) vivre vécu (lived)
voir vu (saw) vouloir voulu (wanted)