Lesson 7: Ancient History

Passé Simple of Regular Verbs

Unlike English, there is a literary past tense, used when writing formally. This past tense is the passé simple. It is relatively simple to predict when to use this tense: for every occurrence of the passé composé in conversational French, one simply uses the passé simple in literary French. Note that the passé simple is not a composed tense, and therefore does not have an auxiliary verb like the passé composé does.

Formation

To conjugate in this tense, one finds the stem and appends the following, as according to the table:

French Grammar • History
The Simple Past Le passé simple
Subject Ending Conjugated Verb English
Je -ai Je dansai. I danced.
Tu -as Tu dansas. You danced.
Il -a Il dansa. He danced.
Nous -âmes Nous dansâmes. We danced
Vous -âtes Vous dansâtes. You danced.
Ils -èrent Ils dansèrent. They danced.

Regular Normally-Irregular Verbs

The following verbs are irregular in the present indicative, but are regular in their passé simple stems.

Infinitive Stem Je…
-ir verbs
dormir dorm dormis
partir part partis
sentir sent sentis
servir serv servis
sortir sort sortis
-rir Verbs
couvrir couvr couvris
découvrir découvr découvris
offrir offr offris
ouvrir ouvr ouvris
souffrir souffr souffris
-re Verbs
combattre combatt combattis
rompre romp rompis
suivre suiv suivis

Exercises
Complétez les phrases suivantes en conjuguant les verbes au passé simple:
1. J’_____ (entrer) dans le tour.
2. Tout d’un coup, mon ami ____ (tomber).
3. Nous _________ (monter) l’éscalier.
4. Je _____ (dire) aux professeurs qu’il _______ (regarder) la télé.
5. Ils t’_______ (offrir) le plat, et tu le _______ (laisser) tomber.

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