Passé Composé in French

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The passé composé is here. This tense is all about the past, and even though it might be difficult, it is widely use in French! Here's a lesson to help you understand it!
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What is the passé composé in French?

The passé composé is one of the terms in French used the most, so it is extremely important to understand. This term is the French equivalent of the simple past.


Hier, j’ai travaillé dans un café. (passé composé)

Yesterday, I worked in a coffee shop. (simple past)

coffee shop clipart

When and How to use the passé composé:

The passé composé is used when you want to talk about actions that occurred in the past and to put emphasis on their effects in the present.

The passé composé is a compound tense, meaning that it is made up of a combination of the auxiliary verbs être or avoir and the past participle.

How to conjugate the passé composé:

Following the coffee shop example above, the formation for a passé composé sentence would be the following:

Passé Composé Sentence Formation:
auxiliary verb avoir   +   past participle   +   verb


First, will need to learn how to conjugate the auxiliary verb:

Auxiliary Verbs
PronounsAuxiliary avoir (to have)Auxiliary être (to be )
Je (I)aisuis
Tu (you)ases
Il/elle/on (he/she/we)aest
Nous (we)avonssommes
Vous (you)avezêtes
Ils/elles (they)ontsont

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Then, moving on to the past participles, they vary according to the group they belong to:


Past Participles

1st group 

Verbs ending in -er

2nd group

Verbs ending in -ir

3rd group 

All the other verbs

-er becomes -é

aimer- aimé 

-ir becomes -i

finir- fini 

-rir becomes -ert


-oir and -re becomes -u

Voir-vu   and  perdre- perdu

-ire becomes -it



Mourir becomes mort

Être becomes été

faire becomes fait

Avoir becomes eu

But, be careful, the past participles have to agree in gender and number when used with  the auxiliary verb être.

You have to add an s if the subject is plural and an if the subject is feminine.

Here is a list of verbs that are used with the auxiliary verb être:

  • entrer, sortir, retourner, rester, descendre, monter, tomber, arriver, partir, venir, aller, passer par, mourir, naître.


1.  She came back early. (feminin+singular)

Elle est revenue tôt.


2. We were born on September 25th. (masculin+plural)

Nous sommes nés le 25 septembre.


3. They went to the beach. (feminine+plural)

Elles sont allées à la plage.

Need Practice? Check out our Free Printable Beginner French Worksheets:

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