Le passé récent: the recent past in French

What is the passé récent?

We use le passé récent (the recent past) to talk about completed actions that happened shortly before the moment of speaking. In English, we use the construction have just + past participle, while in French we use the conjugated form of the verb venir.

Learn everything you need to know about the recent past in French with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.

Example

Paul et Julie venaient de boire un café lorsqu’ils se sont rendu compte qu’ils étaient en retard pour prendre leur train.

Oh non ! Le train vient de partir ! Ils n’ont plus qu’à attendre le prochain.

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When to use the passé récent

The passé récent is used to speak about a completed action that took place shortly before the moment of speaking. We can compare the recent past with the English structure have just + past participle.

Example:
Le train vient de partir.The train has just left.

How to form the recent past in French

To form the passé récent we use a conjugated form of the verb venir + de + infinitive.

Example:
Je viens de louper le train.I’ve just missed the train.
  • If we refer to something that happened just before the present moment, venir is conjugated in the present (le présent).
    Example:
    Le train vient de partir. Nous devons attendre le prochain.The train has just left. We have to wait for the next one.
Person venir de infinitive
1st person singular (I) je viens de

manger
finir
voir

2nd person singular (you) tu viens
3rd person singular (he/she/it) il/elle/on vient
1st person plural (we) nous venons
2nd person plural (you) vous venez
3rd person plural (they) ils/elles viennent
  • If we refer to something that happened before a moment in the past, venir is conjugated in the imperfect tense (l’imparfait). This can be compared with the English structure had just + past participle.
    Example:
    Ils venaient de boire un café lorsqu’ils se sont rendu compte qu’ils étaient en retard.They had just drunk a coffee when they realised that they were running late.
Person venir de infinitive
1st person singular (I) je venais de

manger
finir
voir

2nd person singular (you) tu venais
3rd person singular (he/she/it) il/elle/on venait
1st person plural (we) nous venions
2nd person plural (you) vous veniez
3rd person plural (they) ils/elles venaient