Learn How to Use the French Verb Passer

Learn about the French verb passer

Passer is a very common and useful French verb. It is a regular -ER verb but may be conjugated with avoir or être in the compound tenses, depending on whether it is transitive (has a direct object) or intransitive.

Intransitive passer

With no direct object, passer means "to pass," and requires être in the compound tenses.

   Le train va passer dans cinq minutes
   The train is going to pass / go past in five minutes

   Nous sommes passés devant la porte à midi
   We passed by the door at noon

When followed by an infinitive, passer means "to go/come to do something":

   Je vais passer te voir demain
   I'll come (by to) see you tomorrow

   Pouvez-vous passer acheter du pain ?

   Can you go buy some bread?

Transitive passer

When passer is transitive (that is, has a direct object), it means "to pass/cross/go through" and requires avoir in the compound tenses.

   On doit passer la rivière avant le coucher du soleil
   We need to cross the river before sunset

   Il a déjà passé la porte
   He has already gone through the door

Passer is also used transitively with a period of time to mean "to spend":

   Nous allons passer deux semaines en France
   We're going to spend two weeks in France

   J'ai passé trois mois sur ce livre
   I spent 3 months on that book

Transitive vs. Intransitive

While the meanings are pretty much the same, the difference is in the object (noun following the verb). If there is no object, or if a preposition separates the verb and object, the verb is intransitive, as in Je suis passé devant la porte. If there's no preposition, like in J'ai passé la porte, it's transitive.

Se Passer

Se passer most often means "to take place," "to happen," or, in reference to time, "to go by":

   Qu'est-ce qui se passe ?
   What's going on?

   Tout s'est bien passé
   Everything went smoothly

   Deux jours se sont passés
   Two days went by

Expressions with passer


Present tense

je passe
tu passes
il passe
nous passons
vous passez
ils passent

All tenses