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French Grammar

The passé composé with the verb “avoir”


The ”passé composé” is the present perfect tense. This tense is used a lot in French to describe a situation that happened in the past at a definite time but that still has a meaning for today… Seems very theoretical, but really, it is not as you will see soon with French Lessons Australia!


When to use it?

The passé composé is the usual tense for events and incidents that happened in a close past. Unlike the English present perfect, the passé composé is used very often by French people.

Some time indicators can be used in addition to strengthen this relation between past and present! For instance: hier (yesterday), l’autre jour (the other day), samedi passé (last Saturday), plusieurs fois (several times), l’année passée (last year),

As you can see, it is not necessary to be very recent to use the passé composé. As soon as the information is still relevant with today, the passé composé is appropriate.

Obviously, the passé composé is not the only past tense used in French. The imperfect tense and the past simple tense are also used as we will see in another post on French Lessons Brisbane. However, the passé composé is one of the predominant tense in everyday’s language!


How to use it?

The passé composé is, as its name suggests, a compound tense. Which means that it can be compounded with either the auxiliary ‘être’ or ‘avoir’, followed by the past participle of the verb.

The passé composé of most of the French verbs is used with the ‘avoir’.

Let’s take the action of eating. To say that you ate some bread this morning, you will say in French ”j’ai mangé du pain ce matin”. In fact, in English, you could have said either ”I ate some bread”, or ”I have eaten”, or even ”I did eat”. In French, you will only use the passé composé and say ”J’ai mangé”.

The only things you need to know to form the passé composé is the conjugation of the verb ‘avoir’ to the present tense.


Tu as

Il/Elle a

Nous avons

Vous avez

Ils/Elles ont


To that, you will need to add the past participle of the verb you want to conjugate. If the verb is regular, its past participle will mostly be regular. Which means you can guess it without having to know it by heart.

For instance, regular verbs ending by ER will have see their ER displaced by a ‘e’. Therefore, acheter (to buy) will be acheté (bought), manger (to eat) will be mangé (eaten), commencer (to start) will be commencé (started).

Regular verbs ending by IR will have their IR displaced by a ‘i’. Therefore, finir (to finish) will be fini (finished), choisir (to choose) will be choisi (chosen).

And finally, regular verbs ending by RE will have their RE displaced by a ‘u’. Therefore, perdre (to lose) will be perdu (lost), attendre (to wait) will be attendu (waited).

Easy, right?

Well, now, as in English, there are a few irregular verbs which will see their past participle changing differently.

For example, etre (to be) will be été (been), pouvoir (to can) will be pu (could), voir (to see) will be vu (seen), apprendre (to learn) will be appris (learnt), rire (to laugh) will be ri (laughed), etc…


If you want to learn more about French tenses, or just to know more about French in general and what we do at French Lessons Australia, don’t hesitate to contact us at  info@french-lessons-australia.com

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