Le participe passé – the past participle in French

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What is le participe passé ?

Le participe passé (the past participle) is an impersonal verb form that is mostly used to form compound tenses, such as the passé composé. We can also use past participles as adjectives. We form the past participles of regular verbs by adding an ending to the verb stem, although there are many irregular past participles, which must be learned by heart.

Learn how to form the French past participle and when to use it, then put your knowledge to the test in the online exercises.

When to use the participe passé

We use the French past participle in the following situations:

  • To form compound tenses and structures with the auxiliaries avoir and être.
Compound Tense/Mood Example
Passé composé Max a marqué un but.Max 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 Nous sommes heureux que Max ait marqué un but.We’re happy that Max scored a goal.
  • As an adjective. In this case, the past participle must agree in gender and number with the noun or pronoun it is describing.
    Examples:
    L'équipe a gagné grâce au but marqué par Max.The team won thanks to Max’s goal.
    L’équipe a gagné grâce aux buts marqués par Max.The team won thank to Max’s goals.

How to form le participe passé

Regular verbs

-er Verbs

To form the past participle of an -er verb, we replace the infinitive ending with .

Examples:
aimer → aimé
écouter → écouté
rester → resté
travailler → travaillé

Note: the irregular verb aller has a regular past participle: allé

-ir Verbs

To form the past participle of an -ir verb, we replace the infinitive ending with -i.

Examples:
dormir → dormi
finir → fini
partir → parti
réfléchir → réfléchi
sentir → senti

Note: the verbs courir, découvrir, offrir, ouvrir, souffrir, tenir and venir have irregular past participles.

Examples:
courir → couru
offrir → offert

-re Verbs

To form the past participle of an -re verb, we replace the infinitive ending with -u.

Examples:
attendre → attendu
répondre → répondu
vendre → vendu

Note: the majority of -re verbs are irregular and thus have irregular past participles.

Examples:
connaître → connu
écrire → écrit
prendre → pris

Irregular verbs and the participe passé

Many verbs have an irregular past participle form, which must be learned by heart. See below for a list of the most common irregular past participles in French organised by ending, or go to our verb conjugator to look up the past participles of specific verbs.

Participe passé ending in -u

Many irregular verbs form their past participle with the ending -u:

Verb Past Participle
boire bu
connaître connu
courir couru
croire cru
devoir
falloir fallu
lire lu
plaire plu
pleuvoir plu
pouvoir pu
recevoir reçu
savoir su
tenir tenu
venir venu
vivre vécu
voir vu
vouloir voulu

Participe passé ending in -is

Several irregular verbs form their past participle with the ending -is:

Verb Past Participle
apprendre appris
asseoir assis
comprendre compris
mettre mis
prendre pris
promettre promis

Participe passé ending in -t

Many irregular verbs form their past participle with the ending -t:

Verb Past Participle
conduire conduit
construire construit
craindre craint
dire dit
écrire écrit
éteindre éteint
faire fait
joindre joint
peindre peint
produire produit
traduire traduit

Participe passé ending in -ert

Some irregular verbs form their past participle with the ending -ert:

Verb Past Participle
découvrir découvert
offrir offert
ouvrir ouvert
souffrir souffert

Participe passé ending in -i

Two irregular verbs (and their related forms) form their past participle with the ending -i:

Verb Past Participle
rire (sourire, etc.) ri
suivre (poursuivre, etc.) suivi

Other irregular verbs

There are four verbs that have completely irregular past participle forms:

Verb Past Participle
avoir eu
être été
mourir mort
naître

When does the past participle agree in French?

There are some cases when the past participle must agree in gender and number with the subject or object of the sentence. The past participle agrees as follows:

Singular Plural
Masculine Participe passé Participe passé + s
Feminine Participe passé + e Participe passé + es

Generally, the past participle agrees when it is conjugated with être and stays the same when it is conjugated with avoir. However, there are some important exceptions we need to look out for.

Past participle agreement with être

When the past participle appears with the auxiliary être in a compound tense, it must agree in gender and number with the subject of the sentence.

Examples:
Max est rentré à la maison.Max went home.
Sa sœur est rentrée à la maison.His sister went home.
singular feminine noun: past participle + e
Les joueurs sont rentrés à la maison.The players went home.
plural masculine noun: past participle + s
Les joueuses sont rentrées à la maison.The (female) players went home.
plural feminine noun: past participle + es

Past participle agreement with pronominal verbs

All pronominal verbs are conjugated with être in compound tenses. In most cases, the past participle agrees in gender and number with the subject of the sentence.

Example:
Elle s’est lavée.She had a wash.
The past participle agrees because the subject and the object are the same (elle); literally: she washes herself.
Ils se sont mariés en mai.They got married in May.
The past participle agrees because the subject and the object are the same (ils). The verb is reciprocal; literally: they married each other.

However, the past participle does not agree with the subject of the sentence when the pronominal verb is followed by a direct object or another verb.

Example:
Elle s’est lavé les mains.She washed her hands.
The past participle stays the same because the subject (elle) and the object (les mains) are different.

Likewise, the past participle does not agree with an indirect object. This means that it remains the same when used with the following 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.

Example:
Marie et Laurent se sont téléphoné. (téléphoner à)
se = indirect object

Past participle agreement with avoir

When the past participle is used with avoir in the compound tenses, it never agrees with the subject of a sentence in gender or number. However, the past participle with avoir agrees with a direct object that comes before the verb.

Examples:
Max a marqué un but. → Max l’a marqué.Max scored a goal. → Max scored it.
Max a marqué deux buts. → Max les a marqués.Max scored two goals. → Max scored them.

This happens when the direct object is a pronoun (me, te, le, la, nous, vous, les) or when the direct object is followed by a relative clause with que.

Examples:
Max les a marqués.Max scored them. (direct object pronoun)
C’est la maison que nous avons achetée.This is the house that we bought. (relative clause with que)