Languages › French The French Past Tense, or Passé Simple Share Flipboard Email Print ThoughtCo / Claire Cohen French Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Resources For Teachers By ThoughtCo Team Updated February 21, 2020 The passé simple, translated in English as either "simple past" or "preterite," is the literary equivalent of the passé composé, which means that it is used only in formal writing (like historical and literary writing) and very formal speech. In such writing and speech, the passé simple is used alongside the imperfect, just as in everyday speech/writing, the passé composé and imperfect are used together. You will probably never need to actually use the passé simple, but it is important to recognize it, especially if you read in French a lot (fiction or nonfiction). Fortunately, the passé simple is very easy to recognize. If a verb looks "weird" to you, chances are it's the passé simple. How to Conjugate the Passé Simple The"passé simple of regular verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the passé simple endings. Notes: -ER verbs take the first set of endings -IR and -RE take the second set of endings Spelling change verbs, like manger and lancer, have their spelling change in most forms of the passé simple. Irregular verbs at the bottom have irregular stems in the passé simple, but take the same endings as regular -IR/-RE verbs. ER endings parler: parl- manger: mang- lancer: lanc- je -ai parlai mangeai lançai tu -as parlas mangeas lanças il -a parla mangea lança nous -âmes parlâmes mangeâmes lançâmes vous -âtes parlâtes mangeâtes lançâtes ils -èrent parlèrent mangèrent lancèrent IR/RE endings finir: fin- rendre: rend- voir: v- je -is finis rendis vis tu -is finis rendis vis il -it finit rendit vit nous -îmes finîmes rendîmes vîmes vous -îtes finîtes rendîtes vîtes ils -irent finirent rendirent virent Irregular verbs s'asseoir s'ass- mettre m- conduire conduis- naître naqu- dire d- peindre peign- écrire écriv- prendre pr- faire f- rire r- joindre joign- voir v- Conjugate Irregular Verbs in the Passé Simple Most irregular verbs with a past participle that ends in -u use that past participle as the passé simple stem. These verbs and their stems are: avoir: eu-boire: bu-connaître: connu-courir: couru-croire: cru-devoir: du-falloir: fallu-lire: lu-pleuvoir: plu-pouvoir: pu-recevoir: reçu-savoir: su-valoir: valu-vivre: vécu-vouloir: voulu- Three verbs have irregular stems, but take the same endings as the above verbs: être: fu-mourir: mouru-venir: vin- The passé simple endings for irregular verbs are as follows: je: -stu: -sil: -tnous: -^mesvous: -^tesils: -rent Here are a few irregular French verbs conjugated into the passé simple: avoir: eu- j'eustu eusil eutnous eûmesvous eûtesils eurent être: f- je fustu fusil futnous fûmesvous fûtesils furent mourir: mouru- je mourustu mourusil mourutnous mourûmesvous mourûtesils moururent venir: vin- je vinstu vinsil vintnous vînmesvous vîntesils vinrent Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Team, ThoughtCo. "The French Past Tense, or Passé Simple." ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2021, thoughtco.com/french-simple-past-1368893. Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, September 2). The French Past Tense, or Passé Simple. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-simple-past-1368893 Team, ThoughtCo. "The French Past Tense, or Passé Simple." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-simple-past-1368893 (accessed October 23, 2021). copy citation 'L'Imparfait du Subjonctif': An Important French Literary Tense Learn the French Imperfect Past Tense How to Conjugate "Inclure" (to Include) in French Conjugating the Verb Fuir (to Flee) How to Conjugate "Conquérir" (to Conquer) How to Conjugate "Convenir" Learn the Conjugations of "Réduire" (to Reduce) How to Conjugate "Annoncer" (to Announce) A Step-By-Steo Conjugation of "Maintenir" (To Maintain) How to Conjugate "Endormir" (To Put/Send to Sleep) in French How to Conjugate "Diriger" (to Direct) How to Conjugate the French Verb "Acquérir" (to Acquire) How to Conjugate the French Verb Découvrir French Subjunctive Irregular Conjugations How to Conjugate "Exister" (to Exist) in French How to Conjugate "Espérer"