Become familiar with the French Passe Simple


French Passe Simple (Simple Past)

This verb tense is the least-used tense for practical speakers and writers where it is used “he, she or they” forms are more common than the others.

It is only found in literature and is not even used in daily writing.

It is helpful to be familiar with it and to realize it is a past tense, referring to completed action (I wore a shirt, I laughed at the joke, I ran in the race).

It is conjugated as follows:

French Passe simple Verbs of the first group:

-ER Verbs:

E.g. porter (which means to wear in French):

je portai
tu portas
il/elle porta
nous portâmes
vous portâtes
ils/elles portèrent

Elle porta une chemise noire.
She wore a black shirt.

Nous portâmes le blessé jusqu’à l’hôpital.
We carried the wounded person to the hospital.

Ils remercièrent leur famille en leur offrant un bouquet de fleurs
They thanked their family offering them a bunch of flowers.

French Passe simple Verbs of the second group:

-IR verbs with present participle ending in –issant

E.g. finir (to finish)

je finis
tu finis
il/elle finit
nous finîmes
vous finîtes
ils/elles finirent

Au moment où j’ai appris que ma mère avait eu un accident de voiture, je courus immédiatement sur les lieux.
When I heard that my mother had a car crash, I immediately ran onto the place where it happened.

Alors que tout le monde la croyait digne de confiance, elle trahit ses amis.
While everyone thought she was trustworthy, she betrayed her friends.

Pendant leur voyage au Pérou ils maigrirent de cinq kilos.
During their trip in Peru they grew five kilos thinner.

French Passe simple Verbs of the third group:

-RE Verbs and other -IR verbs

E.g. rire (which means to laugh in French)

je ris
tu ris
il/elle rit
nous rîmes
vous rîtes
ils/elles rirent

En voyant le professeur trébucher, l’élève rit.
Seeing that the teacher was stumbling, the pupil laughed.

Après avoir négocié pendent plusieurs heures, nous convinquîmes nos amis de nous rejoindre en Australie.
After having negotiated for several hours, we convinced our friends to meet us in Austalia.

En sortant du sauna, il but deux bouteilles d’eau.
While he was leaving the sauna, he drank two bottles of water.

Learn more about French grammar now that you are familiar with French Passe Simple
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French passe simple
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