The passé simple
The passé simple(simple past, historical past) is a verb tense used mainly in written French, for literary and historical material. It may also be heard during a formal speech. It is the equivalent of the passé composé, used to recount a specific action in the past. When relating events, quality newspapers use the passé simple for refinement. Scandal sheets will often use it to convey a sense of drama. When reading French literature of all periods, you will need to recognize the passé simple to get a full appreciation of the text.
The passé simple of regular -er verbs is formed by adding the endings -ai, -as, -a, -âmes, -âtes, -èrent to the infinitive stem.
Verbs like commencer and manger have a spelling change. When the passé simple ending starts with -a, use the cedilla (ç) for verbs ending in -cer and add an extra -e- for verbs ending in -ger.
The passé simple of regular -ir and -re verbs like partir (to leave) and répondre (to answer) is formed by adding the endings -is, -is, it, -îmes, -îtes, -irent to the infinitive stem.
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Publication information: Book title: Complete French Grammar. Contributors: Annie Heminway - Author. Publisher: McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning. Place of publication: Dubuque, IA. Publication year: 2007. Page number: 131.
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