Introduction to the verb commencer
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The English translation of the French verb commencer is “to begin” or “to start.” The infinitive form of commencer is pronounced as “kom-mahn-say.”
The word commencer comes from the Latin word “cominitiare,” which means “to initiate.” It entered the French language in the 12th century and has been used in various forms and tenses since then.
In everyday French, commencer is most often used in the Passé Composé (Present Perfect) tense to talk about a past action or event that has been completed. This tense is formed by using the auxiliary verb “avoir” (to have) or “être” (to be) in the present tense, followed by the past participle of the verb.
Here are three examples of commencer used in the Passé Composé tense with the respective English translations:
- J’ai commencé mon nouveau travail hier. (I started my new job yesterday.)
- Elle a commencé à apprendre le français il y a deux ans. (She started learning French two years ago.)
- Nous sommes déjà entrés dans le théâtre quand le spectacle a commencé. (We had already entered the theater when the show started.)
Table of the Passé Composé (Present Perfect) Tense Conjugation of commencer
||J’ai commencé à étudier.
||I started studying.
||Tu as commencé ta carrière.
||You started your career.
||Il a commencé le projet.
||He started the project.
||Elle a commencé le travail.
||She started the work.
||On a commencé à parler.
||We started talking.
||Nous avons commencé à danser.
||We started dancing.
||Vous avez commencé à chanter.
||You started singing.
||Ils ont commencé à étudier.
||They started studying.
||Elles ont commencé à s’entraîner.
||They started training.
Other Conjugations for Commencer.
Le Present (Present Tense) Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Imparfait (Imperfect) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Passé Simple (Simple Past) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Passé Composé (Present Perfect) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer (this article)
Futur Simple (Simple Future) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Futur Proche (Near Future) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Passé Antérieur (Past Anterior) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Futur Antérieur (Future Anterior) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Subjonctif Présent (Subjunctive Present) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Subjonctif Passé (Subjunctive Past) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Subjonctif Imparfait (Subjunctive Imperfect) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Subjonctif Plus-que-parfait (Subjunctive Pluperfect) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Conditionnel Présent (Conditional Present) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
Conditionnel Passé (Conditional Past) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
L’impératif Présent (Imperative Present) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
L’infinitif Présent (Infinitive Present) Tense Conjugation of the French Verb commencer
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Commencer – About the French Passé Composé (Present Perfect) Tense
The French Passé Composé is a compound tense used to express actions or events that have been completed in the past. It is one of the most common past tenses in the French language and is typically used in everyday conversation to describe actions that occurred at a specific point in the past. The Passé Composé is constructed using an auxiliary verb (either “être” or “avoir”) and a past participle.
Formation of the Passé Composé
Set the auxiliary verb with either
“être” – used with a select group of verbs (mostly intransitive verbs of motion, reflexive verbs, and some others) or
“avoir” – used with most other verbs.
Conjugate the auxiliary verb
If using “être,” you must conjugate it in the present tense according to the subject of the sentence.
Je suis, Tu es, Il est, Nous sommes, Vous êtes, Ils sont
If using “avoir,” conjugate it according to the subject as well:
J’ai, Tu as, Elle a, Nous avons, Vous avez, Ils ont.
Add the past participle
For regular -er verbs, remove the -er ending and add -é (e.g., “parler” becomes “parlé”).
For regular -ir verbs, remove the -ir ending and add -i (e.g., “finir” becomes “fini”).
For regular -re verbs, remove the -re ending and add -u (e.g., “vendre” becomes “vendu”).
For irregular verbs, you’ll need to learn the past participles individually, as they don’t follow a regular pattern.
Common everyday usage patterns
Narrating Past Events
The Passé Composé is used to talk about specific actions or events that took place in the past. For example: “Hier, j’ai mangé une pizza” (Yesterday, I ate a pizza).
When describing a series of actions in the past, the Passé Composé is used. For example: “D’abord, je me suis réveillé, puis je suis allé travailler” (First, I woke up, then I went to work).
Describing Completed Actions
It’s used to emphasize that an action has been completed, often with a specific time reference. For example: “Elle a terminé son travail à 18 heures” (She finished her work at 6 p.m.).
Interactions with other tenses
The Passé Composé is often used in conjunction with the imperfect tense when telling a story or describing past events. The Passé Composé is used for specific actions that occurred, while the imperfect is used for background information or ongoing actions.
For example: “Il pleuvait quand j’ai sorti mon parapluie” (It was raining when I took out my umbrella).
Conditional and Future Tenses
The Passé Composé is used as a reference point in complex sentences to establish the sequence of events in relation to future or conditional actions.
For example: “Quand il est arrivé, je lui ai donné ton message” (When he arrived, I gave him your message).
The French Passé Composé is an essential tense for talking about completed actions in the past in everyday conversation. It’s important to master the choice of auxiliary verb and the past participle conjugation for various verbs to use it effectively.
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