The perfect tense: a complete example

On the previous page, we mentioned that the perfect tense in French generally carries the meaning of I have ...ed or I ...ed, and that it is generally formed as follows:

perfect tense = present tense of avoir + past participle

We mentioned that there are a few complications. But for now, let's look at a worked example of the general formula we've just mentioned.

Present tense of avoir

Recall that the present tense of avoir is as follows:

Present tense of avoir
PersonForm of avoirEnglish translation
1st singular (I)j'ai ...I've ...
2nd singular (you)tu as've ...
3rd singular (he/she)il/elle a ...he's/she's ...
1st plural (we)nous avons ...we have ...
2nd plural (you)vous avez have ...
3rd plural (they)ils/elles ont ...they've ...

Past participle

The past participle is the equivalent form to words ending in -en or -ed in English: eaten, walked, climbed, broken etc. In English, there is a regular pattern: most verbs have their past participles ending in -ed. But there are some irregularities (sing has sung, not singed).

In French, there is a comparable situation: a regular rule, for regualr -er verbs, plus some other minor rules and irregularities. For now, we'll concentrate on the regular rule:

The past participle of a regular -er verb is formed by replacing -er with .

So that gives past participles such as the following:

Past participles of some regular French verbs
French verbPast participleEnglish meaning
manger (to eat)mangéeaten
travailler (to work)travailléworked
marcher (to walk)marchéwalked
regarder (to watch)regardéwatched

Note that the past participle generally sounds the same as the infinitive for regular -er verbs.

Example perfect tense forms

Now, to make the perfect tense, we need to combine entries from the previous two tables.

Perfect tense forms
What we want to sayVerbForm of avoirPast participlePerfect tense form
I've eatenmanger
to eat
j'ai ...
I've ...
mangéj'ai mangé
I've eaten
you've worked
(talking to single friend)
to work
tu as ...
you've ...
travaillétu as travaillé
you've worked
he's watched TVregarder
(to watch)
il a ...
he's ...
regardéil a regardé la télé
he's watched TV

What to read next

Once you're happy with forming the perfect tense of -er verbs, here are some other things to look at:

 French grammar index
 French-English dictionary
 English-French dictionary

This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2017. All rights reserved.