Compound tense – temps composé


Let's Define It!

What's an *compound tense*?

A compound tense (temps composé) is first of all a verb tense. This is a verb tense formed by joining more than one verb together.

French compound tenses are made up of two elements:

  1. an auxiliary (être OR avoir)
  2. past participle

"...suis arrivé" / "...avait mangé" / "...sera venu" are all compound tenses, respectively, the passé composé, past perfect,  future perfect tenses.

The number of compound tenses ranges from 8 to 10 depending on whether you include the most rare ones such as the impératif passé or the passé sur-composé.


Let's Pronounce It!

What does it sound like in French?


Let's Have an Example or Two!

Can a little reinforcement do the trick?

Here is a list of common French compound tenses alongside their respective examples:

  • passé composé --> J'ai mangé du chocolat / I have eaten (or I ate) chocolate. (present perfect tense)
  • plus-que-parfait --> il savait que j'avais mangé du chocolat / He knew I had chocolate. (pluperfect tense)
  • futur antérieur --> Nous serons partis avant votre retour. / We will be gone before your return. (future perfect)
  • subjonctif passé --> Martin était triste que son ami ait perdu son chien. / Martin was sad that her friend had lost her dog. 
  • conditionnel passé (1st form) --> Il aurait dit bonjour s'il vous avait vu. / He would have said hello if he had seen you. Past conditional (first form)


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