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French Language French Grammar: «Past Tense»

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Past tense french.jpg

This page is concerned with the usage of the different forms of past tenses in French.

The perfect[edit | edit source]

The French past perfect is used to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action in the past. This is the tense which is most commonly used for describing events in the past in modern spoken French.

Sample verbs[edit | edit source]

  • être: j'ai été, tu as été, il a été, nous avons été, vous avez été, ils ont été,
  • avoir: j'ai eu, tu as eu etc.
  • pouvoir: j'ai pu, tu as pu, etc
  • devoir: j'ai dû, tu as dû, etc
  • porter: J'ai porté, tu as porté, etc.

Examples[edit | edit source]

  • Il n'avait pas mangé (avant de faire ses devoirs): He hadn't eaten (before doing his homework).
  • J'ai fait du shopping ce matin ; j'avais déjà fait la lessive: I went shopping this morning; I had already done the laundry.
  • J'étais déjà sorti (quand tu as téléphoné): I had already left (when you called).

The preterite[edit | edit source]

The past historic or "passé simple" in French is also referred to as the preterite.

This is the classic formal narrative tense, used for describing events in the past. Except in some fixed expressions, it has fallen out of use in conversational French.

Sample verbs[edit | edit source]

  • être: je fus, tu fus, il fut, nous fûmes, vous fûtes, ils furent,
  • avoir: j'eus, tu eus, il eut, nous eûmes, vous eûtes, ils eurent,
  • pouvoir: je pus, tu pus, il put, nous pûmes, vous pûtes, ils purent,
  • devoir: je dus, tu dus, il dut, nous dûmes, vous dûtes, ils durent,
  • porter: Je portai, tu portas, il porta, nous portâmes, vous portâtes, ils portèrent
  • finir: je finis, tu finis, il finit, nous finîmes, vous finîtes, ils finirent

Examples[edit | edit source]

  • Nous fûmes très heureux: We were very happy
  • Ils rendirent les porte-feuilles qu’ils avaient volés: They returned the wallets that they had stolen

Videos[edit | edit source]

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