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Past perfect (passé composé)


The passé composé is a compound tense formed with the present tense of the auxiliary (avoir or être, see auxiliaries) and the past participle:

Elle a acheté des livres aujourd’hui. (She bought some books today.)
Ils sont partis en Corse pour les vacances. (They have left for Corsica for vacation.)
Longtemps je me suis couché de bonne heure. (For a long time I went to bed early.)

(See Past participle agreement for rules on agreement.)


The passé composé is used to describe actions that occurred in the past. They may be single events or series:

J’ai fini mes devoirs. (I finished my homework.)
Il y a deux ans, elle a quitté son mari. (Two years ago, she left her husband.)
Je suis allée à l’école, j’ai joué au foot, et j’ai fait mes devoirs. Quelle journée! (I went to school, I played soccer, and I did my homework. What a day!)

Note: While verbs describing mental and emotional states in the past are often in the imparfait, they can be put in the passé composé when one wishes to signal a change or a reaction:

Quand le serpent lui est tombé sur la tête, il a eu peur. (When the snake fell on his head, he was frightened.)

On use of the passé composé with other past tenses, see also Use of passé composé and imperfect, and Pluperfect — Use.

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