How to Learn Past Tense Verbs in French

Have you mastered French present-tense and find that you struggle in real conversation? Past-tense will really enhance your French speaking skills and is easy to learn, too.

Steps

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    Make sure you know how to speak in present tense otherwise it'll be very difficult.
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    Learn that there are 2 different ways of speaking past tense - Passé composé and Imparfait. The first is for something that has been completed, like "ate" or "jumped". The second is more of a continual action, such as "was going" or "was eating".
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    Passé composé is relatively easy. You need to learn the avoir (to have) and the etre (to be) verbs really well. Take the verb manger (to eat) for example. This has an -er ending so is part of the first group.
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    First, write down the conjugations of the verb avoir: j'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez and ils ont. Then add mangé on the end of those:
    • j'ai mangé
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    • tu as mangé
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    • il a mangé
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    • nous avons mangé
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    • vous avez mangé
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    • ils ont mangé
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    For all the other verb groups this is the same with the exception of the endings. Most words with ir will conjugate to i or s, oir to u, and re to u.
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    For Imparfait, it is even easier. Put the whole verb down, e.g. je parle (parler), take off the -er and then add ais:
    • je parlais
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    • tu parlais
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    • il parlait
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    • nous parlions
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    • vous parliez
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    • ils parlaient
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    This is the same for all groups.

Tips

  • Most verbs are conjugated with avoir and only 17 are conjugated with être. The verbs that use être can be remembered with the acronym DRMRSVANDERTRAMPP:
    • Devenir - to become
    • Revenir - to return
    • Mourir - to die
    • Rester - to stay
    • Sortir - to go out/Exit
    • Venir - to come
    • Arriver - to arrive
    • Naître - to be born
    • Descendre - to descend or go down
    • Entrer - to enter
    • Rentrer - to return home
    • Tomber - to fall
    • Retourner - to return
    • Aller - to go
    • Monter - to climb/to go up
    • Partir - to part/ to leave
    • Passer - to pass by.
  • Another set of verbs conjugated with être are reflexive verbs, that is verbs that indicate a subject has performed an action on itself, such as se brosser (brushing), se couper (cutting), and s'habiller (dressing).

Article Info

Categories: French