How to Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé

The passé composé is one of the five tenses used in the past in French. This particular tense is used to describe past, completed tasks, and is often used in storytelling. Although the format is a little bit confusing to understand, some short and easy tricks should help you write and speak in passé composé. You will have to identify and conjugate your auxiliary verb, and then use the past participle form of your main verb, as well as correctly place any modifiers and object nouns/pronouns.


  1. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 1
    Know that the passé composé uses two verbs to form the tense. This first, the auxiliary verb, is either the verb avoir (conjugated) or être (conjugated). The second is the past participle form of the main verb.
    • In French, the end of the second verb changes from its infinitive form depending on the type of verb you are using.
      1. For all verbs ending in -er (e.g. manger, regarder, parler), replace the -er ending with -é (e.g. mangé, regardé, parlé). This includes 'aller' to 'allé'.
      2. For regular verbs ending in -ir (e.g. finir, choisir), remove the 'r' (e.g. fini, choisi). This excludes irregular verbs like 'souvenir'.
      3. For regular verbs ending in -re (e.g. répondre, vendre, attendre), you need to replace the end with -u (e.g. répondu, vendu, attendu). This excludes irregular verbs like 'battre'.
      4. Like in English, French has many irregular past participles. You just have to study them, although there are patterns you can find. Some of these are: mettre --> mis ; naître --> né ; courir --> couru ; prendre --> pris. Most irregular verbs ending with -oir in the infinitive end with -u in the past participle: vouloir --> voulu, pouvoir --> pu, savoir --> su, voir --> vu.
  2. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 2
    Learn that you form most of the verbs in the past tense with the auxiliary verb avoir . For a simple trick you can cut off the end of the verb you need to conjugate; as an example, we'll use the verb manger (eat): J'ai mangé, Tu as mangé. The verb avoir is conjugated thus:
    • J'ai
    • Tu as
    • Il/elle/on a
    • Nous avons
    • Vous avez
    • Ils/Elles ont
  3. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 3
    Study the verbs that use être. These are: monter (to go up) and its derivative remonter; rester (to stay); venir (to come) and its derivatives revenir, parvenir, devenir, etc; aller (to go); naître (to be born); sortir (to go out); tomber (to fall); retourner (to return); arriver (to arrive); mourir (to die); partir (to leave) and its derivative repartir; entrer (to come in/enter) and its derivative rentrer; descendre (to go down) and its derivative redescendre.
    • These verbs are called "intransitive" verbs; i.e. they can't have any grammatical objects. An example in English is 'to go'. You cannot "go something" as you could "eat something" or "finish something", can you? So that verb cannot take an object and therefore needs to use être instead of avoir.
    • Conversely, if one of the above verbs is used transitively, you must use avoir. For example, 'passer' takes 'avoir' when it means 'to take a test': J'ai passé un examen.
    • The verb être is conjugated thus:
      1. Je suis
      2. Tu es
      3. Il/Elle/On est
      4. Nous sommes
      5. Vous êtes
      6. Ils/Elles sont
  4. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 4
    Also, all reflexive or reciprocal verbs use être as their auxiliary when conjugated in the passé composé (e.g. Elle se lave --> Elle s'est lavée). You must put the reflexive or reciprocal pronoun between the subject and the être: Jean s'est brossé les dents.
  5. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 5
    The extra difficulty when you use être is that the past participle needs to agree with the subject. This is to say that you must add -e if the subject is feminine and -s if it is plural. The 'e' always comes before the 's'. Let's say you want to translate "I went". If you take the former method, you should translate it as "I have gone" - but this time you cannot use 'avoir' because there is no object in this sentence. So, "I have" will become "I am" (Je suis) and then you add the past participle, just like we've done before, plus the agreement, if necessary.[1] As an example we'll use the verb aller (to go): Je suis allé(e), Tu es allé(e), Il est allé, Elle est allée, Nous sommes allé(e)s, Vous êtes allé(e)(s), Ils sont allés, and Elles sont allées.
  6. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 6
    Know where to place your object pronouns. You must put your object pronouns between your subject and the avoir/être: J'y suis allé. Your past participle must agree with the direct object when the object comes before the transitive verb. For example, you must write 'Je les ai lavés'.
  7. Image titled Conjugate French Verbs into Passé Composé Step 7
    Form negatives around the auxiliary verb; e.g. Je ne suis pas allé à Paris. Tu n'as pas mangé?


  • Memorize the present tense of Avoir and Être.
  • There are several mnemonics to remembering the être verbs. One of these is DR. MRS. VANDERTRAMP.
  • Be careful when dealing with irregular past participles because the feminine and plural forms may not be what you expect, e.g. devoir --> dû/due.
  • Remember that practice makes perfect. Get practice whenever you can.
  • The best way to learn is with a teacher. They can show you all of the irregular verbs not mentioned here. You can also use a book that shows all the irregular verbs.
  • Watch a video about Passé Composé here: [1].
  • 1. Baby born- Naitre
  • 4. Arriver- To arrive
  • Don't forget that your past participles need to agree with the object in relative clauses too. For example, you should say 'La voiture que j'ai conduite'. Here's a tip: usually, you don't need to worry about this kind of agreement if you're dealing with 'qui'.
  • Here's a tip. For etre passe compose, draw a house.
  • 10. Sortir- To go out.
  • 6. Then returns- Retourner
  • Goes inside the house in three ways.
  • 5. He passes- Passer
  • 8. Then goes up to the attic- Monter
  • Always remember your agreements!
  • 3. Entrer- To enter
  • 9. Then comes back down- Descendre
  • 12. Aller- To go.
  • 2. Venir- To come
  • Then goes out in three ways:
  • 13. He goes up on the roof- Monter.
  • 15. He dies- Mourir.
  • 11. Partir- To Leave.
  • 14. He falls down- Tomber.
  • 7. Then remains- Rester

Article Info

Categories: French