The perfect tense
Watch this to apreciate the Perfect tense for Higher French (and why Paris is perfect at this time of year)
What is your idea of perfection?
In 2018 I spent a few days in Paris – for me, it was perfection. Clear skies, cafes, fine food, strolling through the Rive Gauche.
Being perfect is kind of an idyllic state, like my trip to Paris.
Usefully, the French have named one of their verb tenses, The Perfect Tense, not, because it IS perfect, but because it comes from the Latin word PERFECTUS which means “achieved, finished or completed”, a bit like my trip to Paris.
The perfect tense is the most important past tense in French, so let’s make sure we know it inside and out.
Let’s achieve perfection.
This is Thinkfour
So how do we form the perfect tense?
This tense needs two helping verbs to put it together. These are known verbs as AUXILIARY VERBS.
Auxiliary is just a fancy term for a helper, so don’t be put off by the jargon.
The auxiliary verbs we need to form the Perfect Tense are the present tense of AVOIR and ETRE.
The only other thing we need, is to add on the PAST PARTICIPLE
This is just the bit which ends in “ed” in English, like “played” “finished” replied”
Forming a past participle could not be easier. We simply chop off the last two letters of the infinitive and we are left with a stem like this which you can see here
Jouer – to play becomes jou ( removing the er ending)
Finir – to finish becomes fin ( removing the ir ending)
Répondre – to reply become répond ( removing the re ending)
The next step is to add the following new endings on to the stem we have just created.
Jou + é
Fin + i
Répond + u
Now we simply put the 2 halves together like this :
J’ai is the present tense of AVOIR and joué is the past participle
I played or I have played.
Je suis allé(e) ) I went
Je suis is the present tense of être and allé(e) is the past participle.
Please be aware though that some verbs have irregular past participles and they will need to be learned separately.
But how do we know whether to use AVOIR or ETRE as the helping verb ?
The thing to know about this is, there are only 16 verbs which use être as the helping verb. All you need to do here is learn the list of these 16.
If the verb you want to use is not on this list, then the helping verb is AVOIR.
When I was at school, I learned this little rhyme to help me remember them, and , guess what ? I still know them to this day.
Try learning it too, it really helps.
entré , rentré , arrivé
resté monté, né , allé
tombé , mort , and retourné
these with ease we all can say
parti , sorti , descendu
revenu and devenu
venu too with these we take
and all with ÊTRE conjugate !
Put simply, when writing, if the subject is feminine like “elle” then we add an “e” to the past participle. If the subject is plural like “ils” then we add an “s” to the past participle, and if the subject is feminine and plural like “elles, we add an “es”
So next time you are sitting outside a café in Paris telling some French friends about your great achievements in your Highers, make sure you have the perfect tense all sewn up.
People say that nobody is perfect, but you can get pretty close if you get this right.
This was Thinkfour. Thank you for watching.