Le passé composé de l'indicatif / Passé Composé Indicative

The passé composé (literally, the composite past) is used in French to express a completed action. When you are studying other languages, it is sometimes referred to as the perfect tense or the present perfect tense. Some examples in English:

  • I went shopping on Saturday.
  • I have been to France.
  • I did like that movie.
However, now there is a fork in the road as to how to form it. We must now discuss helping verbs and past participles. To form the passé composé in French, you must always have a helping verb, which is not always necessary in English. Most verbs use the helping verb "avoir" (to have). However, verbs having to do with coming and going, as well as reflexive verbs (verbs where the subject and the object are the same) take the verb "être" (to be, but it will not be translated as such when used as a helping verb). A helpful way to remember the most common coming and going verbs that take "être" is DR. & MRS. VANDERTRAMP. Each letter stands for a verb:

  • D: devenir=to become
  • R: rentrer=to return
  • M: mourir=to die
  • R: revenir=to come back
  • S: sortir=to go out
  • V: venir=to come
  • A: aller=to go
  • N: naître=to be born
  • D: descendre=to go down
  • E: entrer=to enter
  • R: retourner=to return
  • T: tomber=to fall
  • R: rester=to stay
  • A: arriver=to arrive
  • M: monter=to go up
  • P: partir=to leave

*Exception: DR. & MRS. VANDERTRAMP take avoir when they have a DIRECT OBJECT after them (not an indirect object).

Now what's a past participle? It's the word that usually means ___ed in English. For regular -er verbs, you drop the -er and add -é (example: passer goes to passé). For regular -ir verbs, you drop the -ir and add -i (example: finir goes to fini). For regular -re verbs, you drop the -re and add -u (example: rendre goes to rendu). For irregular verbs, you just have to memorize them. Here are the most common:
  • aller (to go) --> allé (went, gone) - appears regular
  • apparaître (appear) --> apparu (appeared)
  • atteindre (to reach) --> atteint (reached)
  • avoir (to have) --> eu (had)
  • boire (to drink) --> bu (drank, drinken)
  • conduire (to drive) --> conduit (drove, driven)
  • connaître (to know) --> connu (knew, known)
  • courir (to run) --> couru (ran)
  • couvrir (to cover) --> couvert (covered)
  • croire (to believe) --> cru (believed)
  • découvrir (to discover) --> découvert (discovered)
  • devoir (to have to, to owe) --> dû (had to, owed)
  • dire (to say) --> dit (said)
  • disparaître (to disappear) --> disparu (disappeared)
  • écrire (to write) --> écrit (wrote, written)
  • être (to be) --> été (was, been)
  • faire (to do, to make) --> fait (did, made)
  • joindre (to join) --> joint (joined)
  • lire (to read) --> lu (read)
  • mettre (to put) --> mis (put)
  • mourir (to die) --> mort (died, dead)
  • naître (to be born) --> né (born)
  • offrir (to offer) --> offert (offered)
  • ouvrir (to open) --> ouvert (opened)
  • paraître (to seem, to appear) --> paru (seemed, appeared)
  • prendre (to take) --> pris (took, taken)
  • plaire (to please) --> plu (pleased)
  • pleuvoir (to rain) --> plu (rained)
  • pouvoir (to be able) --> pu (could)
  • reconnaître (to recognize) --> reconnu (recognized)
  • rire (to laugh) --> ri (laughed)
  • savoir (to know) --> su (knew, known)
  • souffrir (to suffer) --> souffert (suffered)
  • sourire (to smile) --> souri (smiled)
  • tenir (to hold) --> tenu (held)
  • valoir (to value) --> valu (valued)
  • venir (to come) --> venu (came)
  • vivre (to live) --> vécu (lived)
  • voir (to see) --> vu (saw, seen)
  • vouloir (to want) --> voulu (wanted)
Now, to form it, you conjugate your helping verb (either avoir or être, depending on the verb), and add the past participle. If the helping verb is être, the past participle acts like an adjective, so it must modify its noun correctly. If it is a girl, add an e. If it is plural girls, add es. If it is plural guys, add s. Here are some examples of verbs conjugated in the passé composé:

venir (to come)
je suis venu=I came
tu es venu=you came
il est venu=he came
nous sommes venus=we came
vous êtes venus=you came
ils sont venus=they came

se laver (to wash oneself)
je me suis lavé=I washed myself
tu t'es lavé=you washed yourself
il s'est lavé=he washed himself
nous nous sommes lavés=we washed ourselves
vous vous êtes lavés=you washed yourselves
ils se sont lavés=they washed themselves

avoir (to have)
j'ai eu=I had
tu as eu=you had
il a eu=he had
nous avons eu=we had
vous avez eu=you had
ils ont eu=they had

Here's how it can be translated:
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they have [verb]ed.
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they [verb]ed.
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they did [verb].
Note: Sometimes the passé composé and the imparfait are both translated the same way, but they are in different contexts. See the imperfect for information.


  1. one question, say your changing from present term to past term, where do u put the helping verb in the sentence, before the verb, or after the (ils, ells,ont je)???? please help me

  2. hi, I am the owner of http://www.frenchspanishonline.com, would it be possible to exchange our links? thank you, au revoir,

  3. umm what are the exceptions of passe com pose and where are they used?


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