The past participle in French

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Use

The past participle is used in the construction of compound tenses in French. It is essential to form the past tense, the future anterior or even the past perfect.

How to for the past participle in French

The participle is passed on base on the base of a verb. The formation of the past participle varies greatly between verbs but broadly follows the three groups. For the verbs of the first group (endings in -ER) The past participle of the verbs of the first group is formed by removing the “r” and adding an accent on the “e”. The pronunciation is thus preserved.

Examples:

Manger – Mangé (Eat – Eaten)
Chanter – Chanté (Sing – Sung)

For the 2nd group grouping together most of the verbs with an -IR ending in the infinitive we remove the “R”

Examples:

Finir – Fini (Finish – Finished)
Choisir – Choisi (Choose – Choose)

The third group includes other verbs with a variety of endings. The most common being participles in “u”

Lire – lu (read – read)
Boire – bu (Drink drunk)
Voir – vu (See – seen)
Attendre – attendu (Wait – waited)
Vouloir – voulu (Want – wanted)
Devoir – (Duty – due)
pleuvoir – plu (to rain – rained)
Perdre – perdu (Lose – lost)

Some common verbs as well as “to be” and “to have”

Être – été
Avoir – eu
Faire – fait
Dire – dit
Prendre – pris

The agreement of the past participle

The past participle agrees in gender and number (feminine/masculine and singular plural) with the subject when used with the verb “to be”

Example:

Elle est allée au cinéma hier. (She went to the cinema yesterday.)
Ils sont allés au cinéma hier (They went to the cinema yesterday)

The past participle does NOT agree with the subject if used with the verb to have

Example:

Il a mangé un gâteau (He ate a cake)
Elles ont mangé un gâteau (They ate a cake)

With “avoir” The past participle agrees with the object if it is placed BEFORE “avoir”, it does not agree if it is placed after.

Example:

J’ai acheté des fleurs. (I bought flowers)
Je les ai achetées. (I bought them)


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Other Resources: French Language Exercises, Columbia edu


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