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French Grammar, French Vocabulary

The passé composé with the verb “être”

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.

Sometime 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 Sydney. 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 a limited group of verbs is formed with the auxiliary ‘être’, and usually express a change of position.

The passé composé with the verb “être”

The conjugation of the auxiliary ‘être’ looks like this:

Je suis

Tu es

Il/Elle est

Nous sommes

Vous êtes

Ils/Elles sont         

Once you have put your auxiliary with your past participle, there is a rule you need to know: the past participle always agrees with the subject in gender and number.

That seems a bit complicated but basically it means that if the subject of your sentence is feminine you add an ‘e’ at the end of the past participle. If your subject is plural (more than one subject), you add an ‘s’.

Example: You are a group of girls and explain to your friend that you went to the beach yesterday. You will say “Nous sommes allées a la mer hier”. If you were a group of men, you would say “Nous sommes allés a la mer hier”.

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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