irregular-past-participles-french

50 Common Irregular Past Participles in French That Every French Learner Should Know

The French love to live for the present.

That must be why they made talking about the past so difficult!

At first, past participles seem pretty reasonable (especially when compared to the French subjunctive or so-called “simple past.”) Then… the truth comes out. You discover irregular past participles.

Read on to learn 50 of the most common irregular past participles and make your past tense worries… a thing of the past.

Contents

What Is a (Regular) Past Participle?

Unlike many other languages, French does not use a preterite tense to talk about the past, but rather a composed past tense: the passé composé .

As its name suggests, the passé composé is made up of two elements: an auxiliary verb (avoir [to have] or être [to be]) and a past participle. (If you want to learn more about how the passé composé is formed, there is a guide for that.)

In most cases, the past participle is formed in a very predictable way:

Type of groupExplanation
Group 1For 1st group verbs like parler (to speak), the root (parl-) is combined with the ending –é to make the past participle parlé.
Group 2For 2nd group verbs like choisir (to choose), the root (chois-) is combined with the ending –i to make the past participle choisi.
Group 3For 3rd group verbs like descendre (to descend, to go down), the root (descend-) is combined with the ending –u to make the past participle descendu.

Of course, some verbs do not fall into these regular groups. This is when you have to deal with irregular past participles.

50 Frequently Used Irregular French Past Participles

French learners are used to encountering exceptions and irregular verbs, but irregular past participles can be a little bit different. Some verbs that learners are used to seeing in the irregular category, like aller  (to go), actually look like regular verbs here (the past participle of aller is allé ).

This list is your one-stop shop for 50 of the most common irregular past participles:

VerbPast participle
Abstenir  (to abstain) abstenu
Acquérir (to acquire) acquis
Apprendre (to learn) appris
Atteindre (to attain) atteint
Asseoir (to sit) assis
Avoir (to have) eu
Boire (to drink) bu
Comprendre (to understand) compris
Conduire (to drive) conduit
Connaître (to know) connu
Construire (to build) construit
Courir (to run) couru
Couvrir  (to cover) couvert
Craindre  (to fear) craint
Croire  (to believe) cru
Décevoir  (to deceive; to disappoint) déçu
Découvrir  (to discover) découvert
Devoir (to have to)
Dire (to say) dit
Écrire (to write) écrit
Être (to be) été
Faire (to do; to make) fait
Falloir (to have to) fallu
Instruire (to instruct) instruit
Joindre (to join; to affix) joint
Lire (to read) lu
Mettre (to put) mis
Mourir (to die) mort
Naître (to be born)
Obtenir (to obtain) obtenu
Offrir (to offer) offert
Ouvrir (to open) ouvert
Peindre  (to paint) peint
Permettre  (to allow; to permit) permis
Plaire  (to please) plu
Pleuvoir  (to rain) plu
Prendre  (to take) pris
Produire  (to produce) produit
Pouvoir  (to be able to) pu
Recevoir  (to receive) reçu
Réduire  (to reduce) réduit
Rire  (to laugh) ri
Savoir (to know) su
Souffrir  (to suffer) souffert
Suivre (to follow) suivi
Tenir  (to hold) tenu
Vivre (to live) vécu
Valoir  (to be worth) valu
Voir (to see) vu
Vouloir (to want) voulu

Using Irregular Past Participles: It’s Not Just About the Passé Composé

While the most common use of past participles is in composed past tenses such as the passé composé or pluperfect, past participles can actually be used in other ways as well.

Irregular Past Participles Used as Adjectives

For instance, many past participles—both regular and irregular—can also become adjectives. Take a look at the examples featuring irregular past participles below:

En automne, les feuilles mortes tombent des arbres. (In fall, dead leaves fall from trees.)

Le ciel est un peu couvert aujourd’hui. (It’s a bit cloudy today. [Literally: the sky is a bit covered today.])

Veuillez trouver mon CV et ma lettre de motivation joints à cet email. (Please find my CV and cover letter attached to this email.)

As you may have noticed with these examples, when the past participle is used as an adjective, like other adjectives, it agrees with the noun in number and gender.

Generally speaking, past participles only agree with the subject of the sentence when they are conjugated with être . This includes the “DR MRS VANDERTRAMP” list of verbs as well as all reflexive verbs.

For example:

La fille de Gemma est née hier. (Gemma’s daughter was born yesterday.)

Je me suis regardée dans la glace avant de partir à l’école. (I looked at myself in the mirror before leaving for school.)

To this list, however, we must add the case of past participles used as adjectives, like in the examples above or the further examples below:

Cette pièce de théâtre a été écrite en 1671. (This play was written in 1671.)

La maison de Paul, construite l’année dernière, a malheureusement pris feu. (Paul’s house, which was built last year, unfortunately caught fire.)

Note: Noun agreement can also happen when the past participle is used as a past participle—but only when the object pre-poses it. Let’s look at some examples:

Marie a pris la pomme qui était sur le comptoir. (Marie took the apple that was on the counter.)

In this example, the past participle pre-poses the object—in this case, pomme so it doesn’t exhibit noun agreement.

Laura a laissé une pomme sur le comptoir, et Marie l’a prise. (Laura left an apple on the counter, and Marie took it.)

In this example, however, the object—in this case, the l’ that represents the apple—pre-poses the past participle. This means that the past participle, pris , agrees with the object, pomme.

Irregular Past Participles Used as Nouns

In some cases, a past participle can even become a noun linked to the original meaning of the verb.

For the most part, this happens with the feminized form of the past participle, for example:

Irregular Past ParticipleExplanationExample sentence
Conduit Conduit, the past participle of conduire (to drive) becomes conduite (behavior) Sa conduite lors de la soirée était impardonnable.
(Her behavior at the party was inexcusable.)
Craint Craint, the past participle of craindre (to fear) becomes crainte (fear) La crainte de toute mère est que quelque chose arrive à ses enfants.
(The fear of any mother is that something happen to her children.)
Découvert Découvert, the past participle of découvrir (to discover) becomes découverte (discovery) Les archéologues ont fait une énorme découverte lundi.
(The archaeologists made an enormous discovery Monday.)
Mis Mis, the past participle of mettre (to put) becomes mise (stake, as in gambling) La mise est de 20 euros—qui veut participer ?
(The stakes are 20 euros—who’s in?)
Mort Mort, the past participle of mourir (to die) becomes mort (death) La mort fait peur à tout le monde.
(Death scares everyone.)

In other cases, however, the masculine form is used:

Irregular Past ParticipleExplanationExample sentence
Joint Joint, the past participle of joindre (to join) also means seal, as in a bathroom Il nous faut un nouveau joint pour la douche.
(We need a new seal in the shower.)
Permis Permis, the past participle of permettre (to allow) also means permit Il a obtenu son permis de conduire.
(He got his driver’s license.)
Produit Produit, the past participle of produire (to produce) also means product Est-ce que tu as acheté du produit pour laver le sol ?
(Did you buy cleaning products to wash the floor?)
Reçu Reçu, the past participle of recevoir (to receive) also means receipt Est-ce que vous désirez votre reçu ?
(Would you like your receipt?)
Suivi Suivi, the past participle of suivre (to follow) also means follow-up Je vous envoie le suivi de votre commande.
(I’ll send you your order follow-up [tracking information].)

How to Learn Irregular Past Participles in French

In addition to using the list and examples above to learn irregular past participles, the best way to study them is simply to practice!

Here are a few great ways to learn these oddities of the French language:

 

Learn these words and you will soon be using irregular past participles… regularly!

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:

learn-french-with-videos

FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.

learn-french-with-movies

For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:

practice-french-with-subtitled-videos

Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."

practice-french-with-adaptive-quizzes

All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:

learn-french-with-videos

FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.

learn-french-with-movies

For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:

practice-french-with-subtitled-videos

Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."

practice-french-with-adaptive-quizzes

All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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