When to use the perfect tense

An explanation of how to conjugate the perfect tense of regular verbs in French

The perfect tense is used to talk about something that happened in the past - an action that is completely finished, eg: she watched TV, she has watched TV.

The perfect tense is sometimes used with time phrases such as:

FrenchEnglish
hieryesterday
hier matinyesterday morning
hier soiryesterday evening
le week-end dernierlast weekend
lundi dernierlast Monday
la semaine dernièrelast week
le mois dernierlast month
l'année dernièrelast year

How to form the perfect tense

You need two parts to form the perfect tense:

  • the present tense of avoir or être – this is known as an auxiliary verb
  • the past participle of the main verb

A past participle is when you take the infinitive of the verb (ie a verb taken straight from the dictionary ending in -er, -ir, -re) and you change it into the past, eg:

  • to watch → watched
  • to finish → finished
  • to sell → sold