French Compound Tenses and Moods

Temps et modes composés

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Conjugations for the different French verb tenses and moods can be divided into two categories: simple and compound. Simple tenses and moods have only one part (e.g., je vais) whereas compound tenses and moods have two (je suis allé). This lesson will explain everything you need to know about the more complicated compound conjugations.

But first, a chart: the simple tense or mood on the left is used to conjugate the auxiliary verb for the compound tense or mood on the right, as demonstrated with the verb avoir (to have).

 SimpleCompound                  
 Present
   tu as
   (you have)
Passé composé
   tu as eu
   (you have had)
 
 Imperfect
   tu avais
   (you were having)
Pluperfect
   tu avais eu
   (you had had)
 
 Passé simple
   tu eus
   (you had)
Past anterior
   tu eus eu
   (you had had)
 
 Future
   tu auras
   (you will have)
Future perfect
   tu auras eu
   (you will have had)
 
 Conditional
   tu aurais
   (you would have)
Conditional perfect
   tu aurais eu
   (you would have had)
 
 Subjunctive
   tu aies
   (you have)
Past subjunctive
   tu aies eu
   (you had)
 
 Imperfect subjunctive
   tu eusses
   (you were having)
Pluperfect subjunctive
   tu eusses eu
   (you had had)
 
 Imperative
   (tu) aie
   ([you] have)
Past imperative
   (tu) aie eu
   ([you] have had)
 
 Present participle
   ayant
   (having)
Perfect participle
   ayant eu
   (having had)
 
 Infinitive
   avoir
   (to have)
Past infinitive
   avoir eu
   (to have had)
 

Please note that I have provided (English translations) to give you an idea about the differences in meaning, but there may be other possibilities. For detailed information about each tense and mood, click the links to read the lesson. You might also find this lesson helpful: Translating French verbs into English.
    
See other French verbs conjugated into all the tenses and moods:
 SimpleCompound                  
    aller   aller 
    avoir   avoir 
    être   être 
    prendre   prendre 

 

Go on to page 2 to learn about agreement, negation, and word order with compound tenses and moods.

For more information about how all the different French tenses and moods fit together, take a look at my French verb timeline.

There are four things you need to know about French compound tenses and moods in order to conjugate and use them correctly.

1. Two-part conjugations

Compound tenses/moods are always made up of two parts: the conjugated auxiliary verb (either avoir or être) and the past participle. French verbs are classified by their auxiliary verb, and use it for all compound moods/tenses. That is, avoir verbs use avoir in all of the compound tenses/moods, and être verbs use être in all the compound tenses/moods.



In the chart on page 1, the tense/mood in the first column is the conjugation used for the auxiliary verb of the compound tense/mood listed in the second column.

For example, aller is an être verb. So the present tense of être, Il est, is the conjugation used for the passé composé of aller: Il est allé (He went).

Manger is an avoir verb. The future of avoir, Nous aurons, is the conjugation for the future perfect, Nous aurons mangé (We will have eaten).
 

2. Agreement

There are two different types of agreement with compound tenses and moods, depending on whether you're dealing with être verbs or avoir verbs.

Être verbs: In all compound tenses/moods, the past participle of être verbs has to agree with the subject of the sentence in gender and number.

   Il est allé.
   He went.

   Elle était allée.
   She had gone.    Ils seront allés.
   They will have gone.

   ...qu'elles soient allées.
   ...that they went.




Avoir verbs: The past participle of avoir verbs that are preceded by a direct object must agree with the direct object*

   Les livres que tu as commandés sont ici.
   The books that you ordered are here.

   La pomme ? Je l'aurai mangée.
   The apple? I will have eaten it.    Mes sœurs... vous les aviez vues ?


   My sisters... had you seen them?

*Except for verbs of perception and the causative.

When the direct object follows the avoir verb, there is no agreement.

   As-tu commandé des livres ?
   Did you order some books?

   J'aurai mangé la pomme.
   I will have eaten the apple.    Aviez-vous vu mes sœurs ?
   Had you seen my sisters?

There is no agreement with indirect objects.

   Je leur ai parlé.
   I talked to them.

   Il nous a téléphoné.
   He called us.

Learn more about agreement
 

3. Word order: Pronouns

Object, reflexive, and adverbial pronouns always precede the auxiliary verb in compound tenses/moods:    Je te l'ai donné.
   I gave it to you.

   Il l'avait fait.
   He had done it.    Nous y serons allés.
   We will have gone there.
 

4. Word order: Negation

Negative structures almost always surround the auxiliary verb**    Je n'ai pas étudié.
   I didn't study.

   Nous n'aurions jamais su.
   We would have never known.

**Exceptions:

   a) In the past infinitive, both parts of the negation precede the auxiliary verb: 

      J'espère ne pas avoir perdu.
      I hope I didn't lose.

   b) Personne, aucun, and nulle part follow the past participle:

      Je n'ai vu personne.
      I didn't see anyone.

      Je ne l'ai trouvé nulle part.


      I couldn't find it anywhere.
 

3+4. Word order with pronouns and negation

When the sentence includes a pronoun and negation, the pronoun is placed in front of the auxiliary verb, and then the negative structure surrounds that pair:
Subject + ne + pronoun(s) + auxiliary verb + negative word + past participle.

   Nous n'y serions jamais allés.
   We would never have gone there.

   Je ne te l'ai pas donné.
   I didn't give it to you.

For detailed information about the conjugations and uses of the individual compound tenses/moods, follow the links in the summary table on page 1.

Other two-verb constructions

In addition to compound conjugations (auxiliary verb + past participle), French has other two-verb forms, what I call "dual-verb constructions." These consist of a semi-auxiliary verb plus an infinitive, and the rules regarding agreement and word order are somewhat different - learn more.