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Lesson 7: Ancient History

Passé Simple of Regular Verbs

Unlike English, there is a literary past tense, used when writing formally. This past tense is the passé simple. It is relatively simple to predict when to use this tense: for every occurrence of the passé composé in conversational French, one simply uses the passé simple in literary French. Note that the passé simple is not a composed tense, and therefore does not have an auxiliary verb like the passé composé does.

Formation

To conjugate in this tense, one finds the stem and appends the following, as according to the table:

French Grammar • History
The Simple Past Le passé simple
SubjectEndingConjugated VerbEnglish
Je-aiJe dansai.I danced.
Tu-asTu dansas.You danced.
Il-aIl dansa.He danced.
Nous-âmesNous dansâmes.We danced
Vous-âtesVous dansâtes.You danced.
Ils-èrentIls dansèrent.They danced.

Regular Normally-Irregular Verbs

The following verbs are irregular in the present indicative, but are regular in their passé simple stems.

InfinitiveStemJe…
-ir verbs
dormirdormdormis
partirpartpartis
sentirsentsentis
servirservservis
sortirsortsortis
-rir Verbs
couvrircouvrcouvris
découvrirdécouvrdécouvris
offriroffroffris
ouvrirouvrouvris
souffrirsouffrsouffris
-re Verbs
combattrecombattcombattis
rompreromprompis
suivresuivsuivis

Exercises
Complétez les phrases suivantes en conjuguant les verbes au passé simple:
1. J’_____ (entrer) dans le tour.
2. Tout d’un coup, mon ami ____ (tomber).
3. Nous _________ (monter) l’éscalier.
4. Je _____ (dire) aux professeurs qu’il _______ (regarder) la télé.
5. Ils t’_______ (offrir) le plat, et tu le _______ (laisser) tomber.


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