Lesson Transcript

Hey, guys! This is Pierre from France, and today’s lesson, we’ll target the subject of the composite past, the passé composé in French. This is the main tense when you want to talk about the past in French. So be sure to master that. First, we will talk about the form, the structure, how you can create this tense, and then, after some examples, I would show you how to use it.
So first, the form, the structure. You need the subject like always with verbs in French and then, an auxiliary and a verb. You need two verbs in a certain way. You need two verbs in a way to create the passé composé. The reason why there is the word composé or “composite” is because you need two verbs, you need the verb that you want to use and an auxiliary. The auxiliary is être or avoir, être or avoir, one of those two. You need to conjugate the first auxiliary, the first verb, so the auxiliary, at the present tense, so really simple, and then the verb. Each verb in French has a unique past participle, so, you only need to remember one and then you're done with the conjugation of the verb.
But first, you need to know the auxiliary and how to conjugate that in present tense. So here is a quick summary. Être, the different forms are je suis, tu es, il/elle est, nous sommes, vous etes and then ils/elles sont. So, this is for the first one, être.
And then for avoir “to have”, j'ai, tu as, il a / elle a, nous avons, vous avez, ils/elles ont.
So, you need to remember those auxiliaries and once, if you know only those two auxiliaries, you know how to form like you’re done half of the way. You know half of what you need to know to create the composite past.
Then, what remains is the past participle. The past participle is, as I said, a unique form and it’s sometimes really easy to know what is this form. So, if you take the classic division of the verbs in French, you’ve got the first group, verbs ending with -ER; second group, verbs ending with -IR; and then irregular verbs, the third group.
So here, if you’ve got a verb from the first group, so ending with -ER, the past participle is really simple. You just need to get rid of the -E and the -R and you add -É with the accent. So, for example for the verb manger “to eat”, mangé, same pronunciation, exactly the same pronunciation, except you get rid of the -R and you add the accent.
Then for the second group, so verbs… most of the verbs ending with -IR, some of them are irregular. So, for most of the verbs ending with -IR, you just use -I. So, you get rid of the -R and you got the -I. So, for example, for this verb, “to finish” finir -> fini, so really simple, you get rid of the -R.
And then for irregular verbs, you need to learn by heart again, but it’s only this time, you only need to master one word like the past participle and then, you’re done. So, this is not that hard and it’s usually always similar endings like -U or -I or -IS.
So here, you can see some examples.
When you lose something, “to lose” perdre -> perdu, so here, it’s -U.
Vouloir “to want something / to want”, voulu.
Mourir “to die”, mort.
Another example, prendre “to take”, pris with an -S.
So these, for the irregular verbs, you need to remember the forms, but it’s only one form that you need to remember, so that’s not that difficult.
And then, you know everything about how to form the past participle, but there is one thing that I didn’t mention is, how to choose the auxiliary because you cannot just pick one of them. You need to be careful. So there is one rule to decide how to choose the auxiliary. In almost all the cases, it’s avoir, but if the verb is a change of state, for example, the verb is arrive somewhere, to arrive, then it’s a change of state, you moved. So for that, you need to use être. So this is the rule. So, if you’ve got a change of state, here, change of state… it’s always être and otherwise… it’s avoir. So, it’s a bit tricky to remember what is a verb that means a change of state. So for that, usually, it’s the habits that will help you to distinguish which verb you need to use, but in most cases, it’s always avoir.
So here are some examples to make sure that you understood everything.
So, for the verb, manger with the subject, you’ve got here I, j'ai mange “I ate”.
Then for the verb, “arrive” arriver, as I said, you need to use the auxiliary être because with arriver, you’re like changing the state, state is changing. So, this is like that, tu es arrivé “you arrived”.
Then, here is perdre “to lose”, ils ont perdus, so really simple. Perdre, you use avoir.
Then you’ve got vouloir, nous avons voulu. Again, vouloir is just a common verb. It’s irregular, but there is no change of state so it’s avoir, nous avons voulu, nous avons and then here, vouloir -> voulu, nous avons voulu.
Then, rester, elle est restée. Here, this is a change of state. Rester means “to stay” and when you say “to stay”, you can feel that, okay, you’re not changing your state, but in French, it means that you’re changing. The changement is you’re not changing, but it’s a change of state. So, you need to use the verb être. So here, elle est restée, and you can see here, I added an -E. It’s not just like that. I added this red -E and the reason is, when you use the verb, est, the auxiliary être, you have one more rule. This rule is you need to check the subject and depending if the subject is feminine, plural or feminine plural, you need to add something. So here, you’ve got a feminine subject, so you need to add the -E at the end. In French, E is often the mark of the feminization. So, the feminization of the word is with an -E, so here, we need to feminize the word because the subject and the auxiliary, the auxiliary is être and the subject is feminine.
Here is another example, partir. So, you change a state, you leave, partir “to leave”. Je suis parti, so here again, you need to use être, je suis parti. So no specific rules here at the end because the subject is je and when you don’t know if je is masculine or feminine, you assume that it’s masculine so you don’t do anything.
And here, the last one is mourir. The subject here is les feuilles “the leaves” - Les feuilles sont mort. “The leaves are dead.” So here, mourir is a change of state, you’re alive and then you’re dead, so you change your state. And here, since les feuilles “the leaves” is a feminine word and also plural, you need to add -ES as I said here, feminine plural, -ES - Les feuilles sont mortes. So be careful with that, with the verb, est. Être is used when you’ve got a change of state and when you use it, you check the subject and you might need to add -E, -S or -ES at the end depending on the gender of the word; feminine, plural or feminine plural. So that’s what you need to remember.
And then, what about the usage of the passé composé? There are two main usages. So the first one is, when you talk about a past event that is still affecting the present. So right now, like if I said - j'ai range ma chambre, right now, j'ai range ma chambre, it means “I’ve tidied up my room”, but it means that it’s still tidied up like now it’s clean, it’s not something that was done before and now it’s not true anymore. J'ai range ma chambre, I did it in the past and it’s still done.
So, this is one of the first example and the second one is - J'ai perdu mes clefs. So, it’s really similar, j'ai perdu mes clefs “I lost my keys”. It means that you lost them, but you still haven’t found them again, so they are still lost, j'ai perdu mes clefs. So this is the first usage.
And the second is, when you talk about a past event that is definitely over. So usually, it’s for historical event and also for actions that you did, but they are not affecting the present anymore. It’s like done once and for all.
So, the example here is - J'ai mange une pomme. “I ate an apple.” It means like maybe a few hours ago, a few days ago, a few moments ago, you ate an apple and it’s done. The apple is eaten and nothing more - J'ai mange une pomme.
Then, another example is - Mon frere est né il y a 5 ans. My brother was born 10 years ago or 5 years ago here, 5 years ago, so this is something that happened 5 years ago and this is like a single event. He was born and then it’s done. So here, you need to use the past participle because this event was done only once and now, it’s done, definitely done. It’s not affecting the present, but it’s like a unique event in the past. So here, est né, this is the passé composé. So here, the verb is “to be born”, so in French, it’s… the verb, “to be born” is naître and then, you need to use the auxiliary être which is... the reason is because it’s a change of state, so you need to do - mon frere est né, so être and then né which is the past participle of naître.
And the last one is - La revolution francaise s'est deroulee en 1789. So this one is talking about a historical event, so, this is really punctual again. This has occurred only once in the past and now it’s done. So when you say that, you’re referring to this event that was done and now, it’s definitely over. La revolution francaise s'est deroulee en 1789, so “The French revolution occurred in 1789.”
So this is the two different usages that you can do with the past participle. It’s quite simple, but be sure to check and to be sure if that’s the correct tense. There is one additional thing that I want to tell you. This thing is concerning how to translate the passé composé in English. The passé composé is… you can translate it with two different things in English. You can use the preterite or the present perfect and the situations can depend. So, in most cases, when you’ve got the past event still affecting present, you would use the present perfect to translate that. And for past event, definitely over, generally, it’s the preterite, but it’s not like a truth for everything. You need to be careful, but here, j'ai range ma chambre “I tidied up my room”, so this is, here present perfect, the translation.
J'ai perdu mes clefs “I've lost my keys”, again, present perfect.
And here - J'ai mange une pomme “I ate an apple”, here, preterite.
Mon frere est ne il y a 5 ans “My brother was born 5 years ago”, was, here, it’s preterite again.
So, be sure to understand that preterite is not passé composé and present perfect is not passé composé. Sometimes, you need to translate passé composé with preterite and sometimes with present perfect, so be sure to check that.
And that’s all for today. So, be sure to remember how to form that and to be sure that you understood the tricky situation with the être verb and then, if you remember the usage, you are perfectly good with this tense. This is one of the most common one and this is a kind of easy one, so be sure to really understand everything. See you guys! I hope you really enjoyed that. Bye! Au revoir!