7.1.6 The passé simple

There is another past tense that is known also in other languages. If you know Spanish there is the indefinido, if you know Italian, there is passato remoto, French has passé simple. However there is a big difference, the passé simple is only used sublime literature language. The other language - in comparison - still use this form actively.

In the formation of the passé simple we have to differentiate between verbs ending in -er, -ir, -re and -oir. Many forms are irregular, especially verbs of type 2 ending in -re, -oir have no regular form.

The passé simple is formed with the stem of the present forms adding the endings accordingly.

Overview
  person -er -ir -re -oir
   Type 1 Type 2 Type 1 Type 2
    donner
(donn-)
finir
(fin-)
descendre
(descend-)
boire
(---)
recevoir
(recev-)
voir
(---)
  je donnai finis descendis bus reçus vis
  tu donnas finis descendis bus reçus vis
  il / elle donna finit descendit but reçut vit
  nous donnâmes finîmes descendîmes bûmes reçûmes vîmes
  vous donnâtes finîtes descendîtes bûtes reçûtes vîtes
  ils / elles donnèrent finirent descendirent burent reçurent virent
           

Taking only the endings of the above table we get the following overview:

  Overview
Person -er -ir -re -oir
Type 1 Type 2 Type 1 Type 2
  je ai is is us us is
  tu as is is us us is
  il / elle a it it ut ut it
  nous âmes îmes îmes ûmes ûmes îmes
  vous âtes îtes îtes ûtes ûtes îtes
  ils / elles èrent irent irent urent urent irent

The passé simple knows many irregular verbs, especially the verb être is irregular, therefore we show it here in particular. The translation is only a help for us, since there is no 100% equivalent in English.

  être  
je fus I was
    tu fus you were
    il / elle fut he / she was
    nous fûmes we were
    vous fûtes you were
    ils / elles furent they were





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