To form the passé composé of French, an auxiliary verb and the participle of the main verb are used. To conjugate a verb in the passé composé, you must first conjugate the verbs either être or avoir in the present tense and then join this auxiliary verb with the correct participle of the main verb. This verb tense is used to refer to actions that have been completed in the past.
Method 1 of 4: Form the participle
Step 1. Replace the ending "er" with "é"
To form the participle of regular verbs whose ending is "er", this ending is removed and "é" is used instead. For example, the participle of the verb parler ("to speak") is parlé.
Step 2. Remove the "r" from the verbs ending in "ir"
In the case of regular verbs whose ending is "ir", it is not necessary to remove the entire ending but only the "r". In this way, the verb ends with an "i". For example, the participle of the verb choisir ("to choose") is choisi.
Step 3. Change the "re" endings to a "u"
In the case of regular French verbs whose ending is "re", you just have to replace this ending with a "u" to form the participle. For example, the participle of the verb vendre ("to sell") is vendu.
Step 4. Memorize the irregular verbs
Like Spanish, French has a number of irregular verbs whose endings may be similar to regular verbs, but their conjugation is different. Also, their participles tend to be irregular, so you just have to memorize them as you come across them.
- In some cases, you may find patterns. For example, the participles of irregular verbs whose ending is "oir" mostly end in "u". The participle of the verb voir ("to see") is vu and that of the verb vouloir ("to want" or "to wish") is voulu.
- Most of the participles of irregular verbs ending in "re" end in "is". For example, the participle of comprere ("to understand") is compris and the participle of the verb apprendre ("to learn") is appris.
Method 2 of 4: Form the passé composé with the verb avoir
Step 1. Use the verb avoir for the passé composé in most cases
In French, to form the passé composé of a verb, an auxiliary verb is necessary. With most verbs, to describe something that "has" happened, the verb avoir ("to have") conjugated in the present tense is used.
Step 2. Conjugate the verb avoir in the present tense
The verb avoir in French is a commonly used irregular verb. It is advisable to simply memorize the conjugation of this verb if you have not already done so, since you will use it frequently, in particular with the passé composé.
- J'ai: "I have."
- Your ace: "You have".
- Il / elle a: "He / she has".
- Nous avons: "We have."
- Vous avez: "You have".
- Ils / elles ont: "They / they have".
Step 3. Combine the verb avoir with the correct participle
The passé composé is a tense composed in the past. The auxiliary verb avoir describes when the action is carried out (in the past) and the participle of the main verb identifies the action that has been carried out.
For example: "J'ai compreu les nouvelles". ("I heard the news")
Method 3 of 4: Form the passé composé with the verb être
Step 1. Use the verb être ("to be") to form the passé composé with reflexive verbs
When talking about doing something to oneself, the verb passé composé is formed using the verb être. For example, "Jean s'est brossé les dents" or "Juan washed his teeth."
Reflexive verbs are easy to recognize because the infinitive form begins with the pronoun "se". For example, the reflexive verb se réveiller means "to wake up."
Step 2. Add the correct reflexive pronoun
You must use a reflexive pronoun that agrees with the subject of the sentence. Memorize the correct reflexive pronouns for each subject pronoun.
- The reflexive pronoun for je is me: "Je me lave" ("I wash myself").
- The reflexive pronoun for you is te: "Tu te laves" ("You wash yourself").
- The reflexive pronoun for il / elle is se: "Il se lave" ("He washes himself").
- The reflexive pronoun for nous is nous: "Nous nous lavons" ("We wash ourselves").
- The reflexive pronoun for vous is vous: "Vous vous lavez" ("You wash up").
- The reflexive pronoun for ils / elles is se: "Ils se lavent" ("They wash themselves").
Step 3. Conjugate the verb être in the present
You must use the form of the verb être in the present tense that corresponds to the gender and number of the subject. This is an irregular verb, so you should memorize its conjugation if you haven't already.
- Je suis: "I am".
- You are: "You are".
- Il / elle est: "He / she is".
- Nous sommes: "We are".
- Vous êtes: "You are".
- Ils / elles sont: "They / they are"
Step 4. Combine the verb être with the correct participle
You must place the correct conjugated form of the auxiliary verb être just before the participle of the main verb and voilà! Now you will have a verb in passé composé.
For example: "Je me suis réveillé trop tard." ("I woke up really late")
Step 5. Modify the participle to match the subject
In general, when you use the auxiliary verb être to form the passé composé, the participle must be in gender and number agreement with the subject. If the subject is feminine, you must add an "e" and, if the subject is plural, you must add an "s".
- For example: "Elle s'est amusée." ("She had fun").
- There are exceptions. There is no agreement when talking about a part of the body. For example: "Elle s'est lavée" ("She washed her hair") as opposed to "Elle s'est lavé les cheveux" ("She washed her hair").
Step 6. Try using a mnemonic to memorize the verbs that use être
Apart from reflexive verbs, several other verbs in French use the verb être in the passé composé. You can use the following mnemonic to memorize these verbs: "DR (and) MRS (" lady ") VANDERTRAMP."
Following the order of the mnemonic, the verbs are devenir ("become"), revenir ("return"), monter ("go up"), retourner ("flip"), sortir ("leave"), come ("come"), aller ("to go"), naître ("to be born"), descendre ("to come down"), entrer ("to enter"), rentrer ("to return", "to go home"), tomber ("to fall"), rester ("to remain"), arriver ("to arrive"), mourir ("to die"), and to depart ("to depart")
Method 4 of 4: Use the passé composé in a sentence
Step 1. Ask a question by reversing the auxiliary verb
You may already know that, to ask a question in French, the subject and the verb must be reversed. If you want to ask a question using the passé composé, you just have to invert the auxiliary verb and place a hyphen between it and the subject. Then the participle follows immediately after the subject.
For example: "As-tu mangé?" ("Have you eaten?")
Step 2. Place the object pronouns between the subject and the auxiliary verb
In French, object pronouns usually come just before the verb of which they are objects. In the case of a combined verb like the passé composé, they must come before the conjugated auxiliary verb.
- For example: "Je l'ai rencontré à Paris." ("I met him in Paris").
- You should use this same placement rule for reflexive pronouns. For example: "Je me suis amusé." ("I had fun").
Step 3. Form the negatives around the auxiliary verb
To say that something did not happen in the past using the passé composé, you must be careful that the participle is not included in the negative. You just have to put "ne… pas" around the conjugated verb (in this case, the auxiliary verb avoir).
For example: "Nous n'avons pas fini le travail." ("We didn't finish the job")
Step 4. Keep the verb être and the reflexive pronoun together when forming negatives
To write a negative sentence in passé composé with a verb that uses être, you must place the "ne… pas" around the reflexive pronoun and the auxiliary verb être.