Participe/gérondif (participle/gerund)


We often use relative clauses in English, but in French it’s more common to use the participe présent and the gérondif. The gérondif is used in both written and spoken language, but the participe présent is almost exclusively used in writing.



Le temps n’étant pas trop mauvais, Max a pu jouer au foot samedi dernier. Le match fut passionnant et l’équipe adverse était surprenante.

En jouant, Max a marqué un but et son équipe a gagné. En s’entraînant bien, son équipe gagnera aussi le prochain match.

Après le match, Max était de très bonne humeur. Il est rentré chez lui en chantant.




The gérondif is used:

  • to emphasise that two actions take place simultaneously.
    En jouant, Max a marqué un but.While playing, Max scored a goal.
  • to express a condition.
    En s’entraînant bien, son équipe gagnera aussi le prochain match.If his team trains well, they will be able to win the next game as well.
  • to express manner.
    Son équipe marquera peut-être même deux buts en ayant une meilleure tactique.With better tactics, maybe his team will even score two goals.
  • to express an opposite (we can strengthen the opposite by adding tout).
    Il a marqué un but tout en courant très peu pendant le jeu.He scored a goal, even though he ran very little during the game.

Participe présent

We use the participe présent:

  • as a verb. It refers to a noun or a pronoun. It is invariable and can have the same meaning as a relative clause, or can express a reason or time.
    Max ayant le ballon devant lui court vers l’autre bout du terrain.Having the ball in his possession, Max ran towards the other end of the field.
  • like an adjective. In this case the ending agrees with the noun.
    un match passionnantan exciting game
    une équipe surprenantea surprising team
  • in a participle clause. In this case, the participle is invariable. The participle clause and the main clause have separate subjects.
    Le temps n’étant pas trop mauvais, Max a pu jouer au foot.The weather not being too bad, Max was able to play football.

Participe passé

We use the participe passé:

  • in the compound tenses.
passé composé Max a marqué un but.Max scored a goal/Max has scored a goal.
plus-que-parfait Max avait marqué un but.Max had scored a goal.
futur antérieur Max aura marqué un but.Max will have scored a goal.
passif Un but est marqué par Max.A goal was scored by Max.
conditionnel passé Max aurait marqué un but.Max would have scored a goal.
subjonctif passé Que Max ait marqué un but.That Max had scored a goal.
  • like an adjective.
    L’équipe a gagné grâce au but marqué par Max.The team won thanks to the goal scored by Max.

Participe composé

We use the participe composé in participle clauses for an action that had already been completed by the time the action in the main clause took place.

Son équpe ayant joué le samedi, Max se reposa le dimanche.Since his team played on Saturday, Max rested on Sunday.

For verbs in the passive, a form of the participe passé constructed with être indicates a condition that has been reached.

Les paris étant faits, tous sont curieux.With the bets made, everyone was curious.

Since the participe passé also expresses anteriority, sometimes both forms are possible. In the following cases, however, we can only use the participe composé (and not the participe passé):

  • for verbs that construct the passé composé with avoir, in the active voice without a direct object
    Ayant applaudi, le public sortit du stade.Having applauded, the audience left the stadium.
  • with aller
    Étant allée au stade en avance, sa famille eut des places au premier rang.Having gone to the stadium early, his family had seats in the first row.



The gérondif is constructed using en + participe présent (see below).

aimer – en aimant
finir – en finissant
dormir – en dormant
vendre – en vendant

Participe Présent

We take the present-tense form of the first person plural and replace the ending ons with ant.

aimer – nous aimons – aimant
finir – nous finissons – finissant
dormir – nous dormons – dormant
vendre – nous vendons – vendant

To Note

Three verbs construct the participe présent in an irregular fashion:

avoir – ayant
être – étant
savoir – sachant

Participe Passé

For the regular er/ir/re-verbs, the construction of the Participe Passé is simple:

  • If the infinitive ends in er, the participle ends in é
    aimer – aimé
  • If the infinitive ends in ir, the participle ends in i
    finir – fini
  • If the infinitive ends in re, the participle ends in u
    vendre - vendu

For the irregular verbs, we have to look up their participle forms in the list of irregular verbs or learn these forms by heart.

Agreement of the Participe Passé

For certain verbs, the participe passé needs to agree in gender and number.

  • For verbs that construct their compound tenses with être, the participe passé agrees in gender and number with the subject.
    La balle s’est envolée.The ball flew.
    Les balles se sont envolées.The balls flew.
  • For verbs that are constructed using avoir, the participle agrees in gender and number with a direct object coming before the verb; otherwise it is invariable. If a pronoun is being used as a direct object, the pronoun comes before the verb, and the participe passé agrees in gender and number with this object.
    Max a marqué un but. → Max l’a marqué.Max scored a goal.
    Max a marqué deux buts. → Max les a marqués.Max scored two goals.
  • The participe passé of reflexive verbs generally agrees with the subject.
    Elle s’est lavée.She washed herself.

    The subject (elle) and the direct object (s’= reflexive pronoun) are the same person, so the participle agrees with the subject.

    But the participe passé does not agree with the subject if the verb is followed by a direct object which is different from the subject.

    Elle s’est lavé les mains.She washed her hands.

    When using the verb se rendre compte, the participe passé does also not agree with the subject. This is because compte acts as a direct object.

    Elle s’est rendu compte de son erreur.She realised her mistake.She realised her mistake.

    The participe passé does not agree with the subject of the follwing verbs: se téléphoner, se parler, se mentir, se plaire (complaire/déplaire), se sourire, se rire, se nuire, se succéder, se suffire, se ressembler, s’en vouloir. This is because the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object. It is used in the sense of “each other” for these verbs.

    Marie et Laurent se sont téléphoné.Marie and Laurent spoke on the telephone. (téléphoner à)
masculine participe passé participe passé + s
feminine participe passé + e participe passé + es

Participe Composé

The participe composé is constructed using the participe présent of être or avoir and the participe passé.

  • ayant + participe passé
    for active forms of verbs that construct the passé composé with avoir
    jouer → passé composé: il a joué → participe composé: ayant joué
  • étant + participe passé
    in the passive and for all verbs that construct the passé composé with être
    s’entraîner → passé composé: il s’est entraîné → participe composé: s’étant entraîné

For forms that take étant, the participe passé has to agree with the subject in gender and number. If the form in question is located in a participle clause without a subject, the ending agrees with the subject of the main clause.

S’étant bien entraîné, il gagna le match.Since he had trained well, he won the game.
subject: il, masc. singular

but: S’étant bien entraînée, elle gagna le match.Since she had trained well, she won the game.
subject: elle, fem. singular

To Note

In passive forms of the participe composé, étant is often omitted, leaving only the participe passé.
Étant encouragé par ses amis, il avait confiance en lui.
equivalent to → Encouragé par ses amis, il avait confiance en lui.