What is the Passé Simple and When to use it. [Different Style]

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In this French grammar lesson you will learn about the passé simple and when to use it.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • what the passé simple is
  • when to use the passé simple

Please refer to the French C1 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar, if you are curious about how this fits in the overall structure of French C1.

By the end of the lesson you will know all about the passé simple!

Table of Contents

What is the Passé Simple?

The passé simple is the simple past tense in the indicative mood.

It is equivalent to the English simple past.

You will use it to describe actions that have already been completed.

It is found in literature, qualitative journalism, and certain historical documents.

You may be suprised, but the passé simple is even found in books aimed at children.

Et le petit prince eut un très joli éclat de rire qui m’irrita beaucoup.

And the little prince had a very pretty burst of laughter which irritated me very much.

Le Petit Prince, d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Les habitants de Lille vécurent dans la pauvreté.

The people of Lille lived in poverty.


Ils moururent le 7 septembre 1980.

They died on the 7 September, 1980.

When to use the Passé Simple

As mentioned before, you will only find the passé simple in literature, qualitative journalism, and certain historical documents.

In spoken French the passé simple has been replaced with the passé composé.

This means that in spoken French, you will never use it.

In fact, unless you want to become a journalist or author, you will never have to even use it.

But, it is helpful to be able to recognise and understand the passé simple, as you will find it in books and journals.

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