Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Candice here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is, What is the participe passé and how do you use it?
The participe passé is a temps composé, or a composed tense. That means it's made up of two parts: être meaning “to be” or avoir meaning “to have," followed by a verb in the past participle.
In French, there are 3 main temps composés:
Le passé composé which describes the recent past, Le plus-que-parfait, or past perfect, which is used to talk about an action that occurred before another action,
and the pluperfect passé antérieur, which is very formal and can mostly be found in literature or historical books.
Let's focus on the Passé composé, which is used to describe the recent past, and is the most commonly used out of the three. To use it, you need the present être or avoir + the participe passé or past participle of the verb. For example, "I have read a book" would be J'ai lu un livre. The auxiliary verb, in this case, avoir, must be conjugated with the subject. Another example would be Nous avons vu ce film le mois passé, which means, "We have seen that movie last month."
With être, you also need to conjugate it according to the subject, but it's a little more tricky than that. If the subject is feminine or plural, you need to add "e," "es" or "s." For example: “She has been to the swimming pool" is Elle est allée à la piscine. If you're referring to a group of girls, it would be: Nous sommes allées a la piscine.
But when do we need être or avoir? If a verb does not have any grammatical object, you have to use être. This is usually used for verbs describing movement. For example, aller meaning “to go,” venir, “to come” or partir, “to leave.”
Avoir is used to describe an action and requires an object. For example, you would use avoir with the verbs manger, “to eat,” boire, “to drink” or voir, “to read,” because you eat, drink and read something. For example, J'ai lu un livre. “I have read a book,” or J'ai mangé de la glace. “I have eaten ice cream.”
A bit tricky, isn’t it? With some practice it’ll get better!
Stay tuned for more answers to your frequently asked questions!
A bientôt, see you soon!