x
Bonjour! Welcome to the only platform 100% dedicated to the French language. All Tutoring sessions are conducted by Native French Speakers
  • French GrammarFrench Lessons

    Hey Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp, please help!

    How could your best friend not know about that absolute gorgeous gown you saw for the prom? Don’t you have to tell your family about the crazy thing that happened at work today? This implies that to get them on board, you’d have to relay what happened and the tense we use in French for repeating a occurred event or a sequence of them in the past, is passé composé.

    Hey Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp, please help!
    By Michelle
    26 November 2019
    [mashshare]
    , Hey Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp, please help!

    French Grammar French Lessons

    Hey Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp, please help!

    [mashshare]

How could your best friend not know about that absolute gorgeous gown you saw for the prom? Don’t you have to tell your family about the crazy thing that happened at work today? This implies that to get them on board, you’d have to relay what happened and the tense we use in French for repeating a occurred event or a sequence of them in the past, is passé composé. 

Pronoun + auxiliary verb + infinitive + past participle of lexical verb = passé composé

We know French pronouns constitute of – Je, Tu, Il/Elle, Nous, Vous and Ils/Elles. The auxiliary verbs are the helpers which don’t hold any lexical meaning but contribute towards the grammatical function. In this concept, there are two of them – être and avoir. On the contrary, lexical verbs are the older sibling which bring in meaning to a sentence. Infinitives are the verbs in the raw forms or unconjugated like choisir (to choose).

This brings us to the only aspect left – the past participles.

Regular ‘-er ‘VerbsRegular ‘-ir’ VerbsRegular ‘-re’ Verbs
Past Participle:  -éPast Participle: -iPast Participle: -u
Example: parler (to speak)Example: finir (to finish)Example: rendre (to return)

Example:
Il est descendu en voiture (He drove down by car)

*Here the pronoun is il, auxiliary verb is est (être), lexical verb is descendre (to descend) and past participle is ‘u’.

Before moving on, we can’t forget about the irregular verbs. Let’s see conjugation of three that are commonly used.

  • faire (to do) is fait
  • voir (to see) is vu
  • avoir (to have) is eu

Now that we have neatly tied up everything it’s time to wrap up and move on to the next. Hold on. Slam on those brakes. How do we know when to use which auxiliary verb?

Blow the Trumpets for Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp

Why so much festivity for a mere name you ask? Well, this can make passé composé a piece of cake for you! Learn the table below and you can start composing être in a jiffy.

LetterIndicated Verb
DDevenir (to become)
RRevenir (to come back)
MMonter (to go up)
RRetourner (to return)
SSortir (to go out)
VVenir (to come)
AAller (to go)
NNaître (to be born)
DDescendre (to go down)
EEntrer (to enter)
RRentrer (to go home/to return)
TTomber (to fall)
RRester (to remain/to rest)
AArriver (to arrive)
MMourir (to die)
PPartir (to leave)

If you observe carefully, most of the verbs here follow direction. So, if you feel that the verb implies ‘movement’, think être. The rest of the verbs take avoir.

Be an Architect to Make Your Dream House Mnemonic

If you find it tough to memorize the name mnemonic above, then just build them a house of verbs. Go back to your art classes and make a house with a door, some stairs and a couple of windows. Then follow the instructions below by making a line of their path and label the verbs along the way.

  • The couple arrives at the house (arriver)
  • They have come to the house after work (venir)
  • They enter their house (entrer)
  • And they go up the stairs (monter)
  • Then they come down the stairs for dinner (descendre)
  • The husband passes by the kitchen (passer par)
  • But the wife forgets her mobile so returns upstairs (retourner)
  • She trips on her heels and falls (tomber)
  • She remains there for a bit (rester)
  • After a bit she gets up to leave (partir)
  • Her husband locked the door, so she goes out of the window (sortir)
  • And then she goes towards the car (aller)

* Some of the verbs (devenir, revenir, rentrer, naître, mourir) need to be memorized.

 

The Curious Case of ‘Passer Par’ and Other Prepositions

Depending on the context, either of the auxiliary verbs are used for conjugation. On its own, passer (to pass) is avoir’s family but when par (by) gets added, the onus shifts to être. This is the case that some other prepositions also follow.

Example:
Nous sommes passés par la boutique (We passed by the shop)
Nous avons passé la boutique (We passed the shop)

* Notice how the verb agrees with number of the subject in être. Remember, that’s a rule in passé composé. Always have an agreement with this auxiliary verb in gender and number.

Embrace the Exceptions

Some Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp verbs like to be used with avoir instead, depending on the context. This changes the whole meaning of the sentence. These cases majorly happen when être auxiliary verbs are transitive which is when they substitute a direct object.

Example:
J’ai sorti le chat dehors (I took the cat outside)

By now you must realize Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp slipping into your afternoon tea guests. Let them run through your head and nail that passé composé conversation. If you still face difficulty, our French tutors will help you out. See you next chapter!

Share this Article:
Please fill the required fields
x
X
×