Recognising être in Le Passé Simple

Look at être in le Passé Simple:

A ce moment, je fus si stupéfait que je partis sur le champ!
At that moment, I was so stunned that I left immediately!

Quand tu quittas le poste de police, tu fus enfin soulagé.
When you left the police station, you were finally relieved.

Soudain, le monstre fut sur lui.
Suddenly, the monster was upon him.

Après des jours et des jours de voyage, nous fûmes heureux de voir notre village.
After days and days of travel, we were happy to see our village.

Quand vous apprîtes la nouvelle, vous ne fûtes pas surpris.
When you heard the news, you were not surprised.

Ils furent escortés jusqu'au roi par sa garde personnelle. 
They were escorted to the king by his personal guard.

 

To conjugate être in le Passé Simple, here is what to do:

'f-' + endings: -us, -us, -ut, -ûmes, -ûtes, -urent

 

ATTENTION: It's easy to confuse je fus (être) with je fis (faire)!

 

See the matching lesson: Recognising faire in Le Passé Simple

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Soudain, le monstre fut sur lui.
Suddenly, the monster was upon him.


Quand tu quittas le poste de police, tu fus enfin soulagé.
When you left the police station, you were finally relieved.


Ils furent escortés jusqu'au roi par sa garde personnelle. 
They were escorted to the king by his personal guard.


A ce moment, je fus si stupéfait que je partis sur le champ!
At that moment, I was so stunned that I left immediately!


Quand vous apprîtes la nouvelle, vous ne fûtes pas surpris.
When you heard the news, you were not surprised.


Après des jours et des jours de voyage, nous fûmes heureux de voir notre village.
After days and days of travel, we were happy to see our village.


Q&A

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

1 February 2019

2 replies

Passé simple and passé composé mixed in literature?

 I am reading "Le Petit Prince" and noticed that sometimes, passé composé is used in the description (NOT the dialogue)  instead of passé simple. In simple sentences like "J'ai ainsi vécu seul" and "J'ai vu un petit bonhomme tout à fait extraordinaire". 

There are instances where you can (or *have to*???) use passé composé in literature? I can't find any pattern so can someone explain this to me?  

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

2 February 2019

2/02/19

Hi Michelle,

This is well spotted and I hope you are enjoying ‘Le Petit Prince’ which, I think is a delight...

In literature the rules are different and authors use different methods to stand out from the rest, the use of tenses in the narrative being one of them.

This is what I have retained from my literary studies at Warwick University (a few decades ago) :

Up to the 19th century, I believe that the passé simple would have been used to describe events and Flaubert was the  first  author to try and break the mould. Modern authors can even use narratives in the present tense which can sound very strange but all done for effect...

Going back to the Petit Prince, I remember the line “ S’il te plaît , monsieur , dessine-moi un mouton “ which is incorrect as you wouldn’t use the ‘tu’ form with ‘monsieur’ ..that’s probably why it stuck in my mind and all done for effect...

Hope this helps!

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

2 February 2019

2/02/19

Ah, a literature thing.  I'm just glad to hear that there are no rules for me to remember here, just books to enjoy.

Now that I think of it, music does it too. Like the famous famous Champs Elysées song--> "N'importe qui et ce fut toi, je t'ai dit n'importe quoi". Though I never really wondered about this until I started reading "Le Petit Prince". 

This is the first time I am reading this book in any language (though I always heard of it) and yes, so far, it is a delightful, creative little story.

That line seemed a bit like a "kid mistake" to me. I live in a formal and non formal you culture and sometimes little kids, when excited and speaking quickly, will slip up and say things like "You know?" (in the informal, tu equivalent) to say, a teacher. Though he is likely not that young of a child (if he is a child at all). But it does all play into this strange little creature just not knowing how to interact with people and the world because he lived alone on his planet all that time. 

Mintoo

Kwiziq community member

18 August 2018

1 reply

Could you please elaborate on the difference between the usage of Le Passé Composé and Passé Simple

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 August 2018

19/08/18

Hi Mintoo,

this question has been elaborated on many times already. There are great examples and discussions on this topic on the internet, if you google the question. I suspect these are more helpful than my reposting what has already been said several times. 

Try these for a start:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passé_simple

https://french.stackexchange.com/questions/9/différence-entre-le-passé-simple-et-le-passé-composé

 

-- Chris. 

Rayan

Kwiziq community member

28 February 2018

1 reply

Why not use the limparfait?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

28 February 2018

28/02/18

Hi Rayan, 

the imparfait and the passé simple serve two different purposes. The former is used in situations where you either describe an ongoing, repeated action or a kind of setting in which the focus of the narrative takes place. 

The latter, however, describes an action in the past which is completely contained in the past and is used to relate an action or the main thread of a narrative. Usually you'd be considering passé composé in this context, but in a higher register of the language (usually written or literary French) the passé simple is used. 

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

lola

Kwiziq community member

15 November 2015

2 replies

comment est-ce qu'on utilise le passe' simple?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

16 November 2015

16/11/15

Bonjour Lola, On l'utilise exactement comme le passé composé, sauf que le passé simple se trouve seulement à l'écrit, comme dans la littérature et le journalisme. Voyez https://www.french-test.com/my-languages/french/glossary/49

lola

Kwiziq community member

17 November 2015

17/11/15

Merci beaucoup, maintenant je comprend le diffe'rence entre les deux
Clever stuff underway!