Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 75): le participé passé


The past participle, called le participe passé in French, is very similar in French and English. The French past participle usually ends in , -i, or -u, while its English equivalent usually ends in -ed or -en. The past participle has three main uses in French:

1. With an auxiliary verb, the past participle forms compound tenses such as the passé composé:

J’ai travaillé hier. I worked yesterday.

Il est arrivé à midi. He arrived at noon.

2. With être, the past participle is used to conjugate the French passive voice.

Le ménage est fait tous les jours. The housework is done every day.

Ce film sera suivi d’une discussion. This movie will be followed by a discussion.

3. Standing alone or with être, the French past participle may be an adjective. Note that in some instances, the participe passé must be translated by the English present participle.

Fatigué, je suis rentré à minuit. Tired, I went home at midnight.

Le garçon déçu a pleuré. The disappointed boy cried.

Le chien assis sur le canapé est mignon. The dog sitting (seated) on the couch is cute.

Je ne vois pas d’homme agenouillé. I don’t see a kneeling man.

Ce livre est écrit en espagnol. This book is written in Spanish.

Sais-tu si le débat est terminé ? Do you know if the debate is finished?

When used in the passive voice or as an adjective, the past participle needs to agree in gender and number with the word it modifies, following the normal rules of adjective agreement. In the compound tenses, it may or may not need to agree, depending on certain factors.

La voiture est lavée par mon fils. The car is washed by my son.

Les solutions proposées sont parfaites. The proposed solutions are perfect.

Elles sont allées à la banque. They went to the bank.

Où est Lise ? Je l’ai vue ce matin. Where is Lise? I saw her this morning.

The past participle of regular verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive ending of a verb and adding é, i, or u to -er, -ir, and -re verbs, respectively:

-ER verbs
Verb parler (to talk)
Remove er
Add é
Past participle parlé (talked)

-IR verbs
Verb réussir (to succeed)
Remove ir
Add i
Past participle réussi (succeeded)

-RE verbs
Verb vendre (to sell)
Remove re
Add u
Past participle vendu (sold)

Most irregular French verbs have irregular past participles:

acquérir > acquis
apprendre > appris
atteindre > atteint
avoir > eu

boire > bu

comprendre > compris
conduire > conduit
connaître > connu
construire > construit
courir > couru
couvrir > couvert
craindre > craint
croire > cru

décevoir > déçu
découvrir > découvert
devoir > dû
dire > dit

écrire > écrit
être > été

faire > fait

instruire > instruit

joindre > joint

lire > lu

mettre > mis
mourir > mort

offrir > offert
ouvrir > ouvert

naître > né

paraître > paru
peindre > peint
pouvoir > pu
prendre > pris
produire > produit

recevoir > reçu

savoir > su
souffrir > souffert
suivre > suivi

tenir > tenu

venir > venu
vivre > vécu
voir > vu
vouloir > voulu


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