Posts from 2018-08-23

Simply French for Beginners - past tense, perfect tense

Past tense – perfect tense.

In English, to say something in the past, for example, to say we visited somewhere, we say “I have visited (something) = I have + visited + (somewhere) 

The first part (I have) is said the same way as the present tense, and then we add a past version of the the other verb, a “past participle” to show what has happened – in this example “visited” is the past participle of the verb “to visit”.

It is the same in French.

I have visited = j’ai visité (=j’ai + visité)


As far as we are concerned, the sound of the past participle (“visité” in this example) stays the same* and gets added to the, ”I have”, “you have”, “she has”, etc.

(*Note: this is true regarding how it sounds, however the past participle follows the gender and number of the object(s), so you may see written = visité, visitée visités visitées, but it always sounds the same)


So…..I have visited = j’ai visité / you have visited = vous avez visité /She/He has visited = elle/il a visité


In English, to make a past participle we mostly put an “ed” on the end of the verb (“visit” becomes “has visited”, “look” becomes “has looked”, watch becomes “has watched”) but we also have “eat”, becoming “has eaten”, “send” becoming “has sent”, “catch” becoming “has caught”, “do” becoming “has done”, etc.


French also has variations, just like English, but lots of past participles have a similar ending.


Some past participles ending in « é »

J’ai visité ma Maman.

J’ai visité la cathédrale.

J’ai acheté un livre.

J’ai acheté un journal.

J’ai demandé une question.

J’ai demandé pourquoi ?


Il a visité ma Maman.

Il a visité la cathédrale.

Il a acheté un livre.

Elle a acheté un journal.

Elle a demandé une question.

Elle a demandé pourquoi ?


Nous avons visité ma Maman.

Nous avons visité la cathédrale.

Vous avez acheté un livre.

Vous avez acheté un journal.

Elles ont demandé une question.

Ils ont demandé pourquoi ?


Some past participles ending in « u »

J’ai vu un chien.

J’ai vu le soleil.

J’ai vendu la valise.

J’ai vendu ma voiture.

J’ai perdu mon passeport.

J’ai perdu mes lunettes.


Il a vu un chien.

Elle a vu le soleil.

Nous avons vendu la valise.

Vous avez vendu ma voiture.

Ils ont perdu mon passeport.

Tu as perdu tes lunettes.


Some past participles ending in « i (or is) »

J’ai pris le train.

Il a pris mon stylo.

Elle a choisi un chapeau.

Nous avons choisi le fromage.

Ils ont fini mon repas.

Tu as fini le livre.


Some « times » in the past to help say when something happened:

Hier / Cet après-midi / Ce matin / Ce soir / La semaine dernière Récemment = recently / Dernièrement = latelyA specific time (such as, « à huit heures et demi… »)


The negative versions.

Like in English, the negative words link to the « to have » verb.

We say, “I have not visited”, or “I haven’t visited”. These change the verb “I have”, to “I have not”, then the past participle is added unchanged.


So in French the “ne…pas” goes around the avoir verb:


I have not visited = je n’ai pas visité


He has not visited = il n’a pas visité


We have not seen = nous n’avons pas vu


They have not taken = ils n’ont pas pris

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