What is the Passé Simple and When to use it

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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
  • how to practice with flashcards on the passé simple
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn French

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It is found in literature, qualitative journalism, and certain historical documents.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As mentioned before, you will only find the passé simple in literature, qualitative journalism, and certain historical documents.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

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.

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

  1. Anki
  2. The Flashcards in our Courses

After you have downloaded Anki for free, you can get our French C1 Anki Deck.

This Anki Deck contains 412 flashcards with which you can practice absolutely everything for French C1.

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.

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).

All you have to do is study 30 minutes a day and you will be fluent in no time!

Don’t miss out – register for free and start learning!

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