TNs, U41: Verbs: Cmpd Past 2(Être Verbs+D.Obj., Past Part. as Adj., Adv. Part. Agreement, C'est+PC)

Être Verbs + Direct Objects

Six être verbs can be used transitively with a direct object: monter, descendre, sortir, rentrer, retourner, and passer. When used transitively, they switch from être to take avoir as an auxiliary.

  • Je suis monté(e). — I went up.
  • J'ai monté les valises. — I brought up the suitcases.
  • Il est sorti. — He left.
  • Il a sorti son portefeuille. — He took out his wallet.
  • Septembre est passé. — September has passed.
  • J'ai passé trois heures ici. — I spent three hours here.

Notice that the transitive versions of these verbs have a different meaning than the intransitive versions.

Past Participles as Adjectives

Just like in English, past participles can be used as adjectives in French.

  • La baguette grillée — The toasted baguette
  • Des biens vendus — Sold goods
  • Elle est mariée. — She is married.
  • C'est du temps perdu. — It is lost time.

Advanced Participle Agreement

You learned in the first compound verb lesson that participles that follow an avoir auxiliary are invariable unless a direct object (often a pronoun) precedes the verb.

  • Voici nos livres. Je les ai achetés hier. — Here are our books. I bought them yesterday.
  • Où est leur voiture ? Ils l'ont vendue ? — Where is their car? Did they sell it?
  • C’est la fille que j’ai vue. – She is the girl that I saw.

An avoir participle also agrees with any form of quel + a noun as long as the noun is the object of the compound verb.

  • Quelle femme avez-vous vue ? — Which woman did you see?
  • Quels bonbons a-t-il achetés ? — Which candies did he buy?

This is also true for lequel (plus its other forms) and combien.

  • Laquelle des filles as-tu vue ? — Which of the girls did you see?
  • Lesquelles de ces chemises a-t-il aimées ? — Which of those shirts did he like?
  • Combien de robes ta fille a-t-elle achetées ? — How many dresses did your daughter buy?

Participles do not agree with indirect objects, y, or en.

  • Je leur ai parlé. — I talked to them.
  • J'y ai pensé. — I thought about it.
  • Nous en avons vendu. — We have sold some.

C'est in the PC

In the present indicative tense, c'est can be used to identify or describe nouns. In the passé composé, être takes avoir as an auxiliary. One consequence of this is that ce actually becomes ç' because it must elide before the vowel beginnings of all forms of avoir while still retaining its original soft consonant sound.

  • Ç'a été un succès ! — This has been a success!
  • Ç'a été un désastre ! — This has been a disaster!

Since this form is somewhat awkward, many Francophones prefer to use the imparfait instead.

  • C'était très agréable. — That was very pleasant.
  • C'était très bon pour l'économie. — This was very good for the economy.

In informal writing, you may also see the ungrammatical form Ça a été. When spoken, both "A" sounds fuse into one long vowel. Erudite Francophones may also use ce fut as a substitute. This alternative uses the passé simple tense, one of the French literary tenses.

  • Ce fut bref mais intense ! — That was short but intense!
  • Ce fut une année très intéressante. — This was a very interesting year.

Important: If you find any errors in the Tips and Notes, have questions related to the grammar points above, or would like to discuss the topic in depth, please feel free to comment below. We ask that you keep your comments on topic so that this post stays educational and everyone can benefit from them. Any spam or unrelated comments will be deleted.

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December 29, 2018


A section titled 'Combining Tenses' in the original Tips & Notes article is missing from this article.

March 20, 2019

The original Tips and Notes were written for an earlier tree version in which the imperfect was taught sooner. In Tree3, the imperfect isn't taught until after compound past 2. That section was simply moved to where it is relevant.

Not to worry, the information about "Combining Tenses" can be found here.

March 21, 2019
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