When to use the Passé Composé: the Essential Guide in 2020

when to use the passé composé

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In this French grammar lesson we will learn about when to use the passé composé.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • when to use the passé composé
  • how the passé composé is used in sentences
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use the passé composé
  • how to practice with flashcards for when to use the passé composé
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn French

Please refer to the French A2 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar if you are curious about how when to use the passé composé fits in French A2 grammar.

Please also read how to form the passé composé to find out how you can form it.

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use the passé composé

Table of Contents

When to use the Passé Composé

There are 4 cases when you would use the passé composé

  1. Completed actions
  2. Repeated actions
  3. Series of actions
  4. Conditions in likely situations

We will handle all of them, and give examples for all of them.

Completed actions

In this case you are describing a situation that started in the past and was completed in the past.

J’ai bu une tasse de café hier.

I drank a cup of coffee yesterday.

Yesterday you started drinking that cup of coffee and then you finished it.

The situation began in the past and it also finished in the past.

In other words, we are describing a completed action.

Repeated actions

In this case you are describing a repetition of actions in the past.

J’y ai bu une tasse de café 7 fois.

I drank a cup of cofee there 7 times.

There is a place where they serve amazing coffee and you love to go there.

In fact, in the past, you have been there 7 times.

We are describing repeated actions in the past.

Series of actions

In this case you are describing a series of action in the past, generally one is following the other.

J’ai bu une tasse de café et je suis sorti du restaurant.

I drank a cup of cofee and then I exited the restaurant.

In the past you went to a restaurant, drank a cup of coffee there, and then you left the restaurant.

These actions happend after each other.

Thus, we are describing a series of actions in the past.

Conditions in likely situations

In this case you are describing a situation that could likely occur.

Si vous avez gagné, vous pouvez recevoir un prix.

If you won, you can receive a prize.

It is very likely that someone that wins something can receive a prize afterwards.

So, we are describing a condition in a likely situation.

Example Sentences with the Passé Composé

The final section of this lesson on when to use the passé composé is about seeing the passé composé in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding of when to use the passé composé through examples.

J’ai bu une tasse de café hier.

I drank a cup of coffee yesterday.

J’y ai bu une tasse de café 7 fois.

I drank a cup of cofee there 7 times.

J’ai bu une tasse de café et je suis sorti du restaurant.

I drank a cup of cofee and then I exited the restaurant.

Si vous avez gagné, vous pouvez recevoir un prix.

If you won, you can receive a prize.

J’ai regardé Harry Potter hier.

I watched Harry Potter yesterday.

Je me suis promené ce matin.

I took a walk this morning.

Quiz Yourself on how to form the Passé Composé

At the end of every lesson you can do a small quiz.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

It is up to you to give the correct answer.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want!

How to Practice With Flashcards for This Lesson

Using flashcards is an absolute necessity when it comes to learning a language!

It is the best way to memorize what you learn, you can personalize your progression because it adapts to your actions, and all flashcards have audio to improve your hearing and pronunciation.

Please read our article on how to learn a new language for more information on flashcards and the best way to learn a new language.

There are two ways to practice with Flashcards for this lesson.

  1. Anki
  2. The Flashcards in our Courses

Anki is a free software with which you can create and practice flashcards.

After you have downloaded Anki, you can get our French A2 Anki Deck.

This Anki Deck contains 3,816 flashcards with which you can practice absolutely everything for French A2.

All the flashcards have text, images, explanations, and audio.

You can also use our courses that have flashcards integrated alongside lessons with audio, quizzes and much more!

However, I am sure you are wondering, what are your courses, and why should I take them?

The Courses of Language Atlas

Have you ever wondered what the best way is to learn a new language?

I have been learning languages for over 20+ years and I was always frustrated with books, courses, and classes that I had tried.

It never really seemed to work for me.

I wanted to learn a language in the most effective and efficient way, and there was nothing out there for me.

So I thought, “why not make something myself?“.

Using my experience and by doing research I created Language Atlas, a platform where people can learn French and Spanish in the most effective and efficient way.

I created free lessons and quizzes so that there would always be a easy and accessible way for people to learn or brush up on their language skills.

However, I also created courses that are much more comprehensive and in-depth.

These courses are easy to follow, clear, and allow you to become fluent in the most effective and efficient way.

The courses of Language Atlas have:

  • 800+ Lessons with audio
  • 800+ Quizzes
  • 10,000 Flashcards with explanations, images, and audio
  • A gamified way of learning a new language
  • A vibrant community (including support from me)

You can register for free and try the French A0/A1 and Spanish A0/A1 Courses for free!

This includes over 60 lessons and quizzes, 500 flashcards that adapt to how you learn, and access to the community (including support from me).

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