Common French phrases: talk about the past

Looking Back: Common French Phrases to Discuss the Past

Learning to speak about the past is a critical aspect of mastering any language, including French. Discussing past events allows you to share stories, experiences, and memories, making conversations much more engaging and personal.

This blog post introduces you to common French phrases and structures that you can use to talk about the past.

Le Passé Composé

When talking about the past in French, one of the most common tenses you’ll use is the “passé composé.” This tense is used to describe actions that were completed in the past.

The passé composé is formed with the auxiliary verb (either “avoir” or “être”) in the present tense, followed by the past participle of the main verb. For example:

  • “J’ai mangé.” (I ate/I have eaten)
  • “Tu as vu ce film.” (You saw this movie/You have seen this movie)

Key Phrases for Discussing the Past

1. Hier

“Hier” means “yesterday.”

  • “Hier, je suis allé au cinéma.” (Yesterday, I went to the cinema.)

2. L’année dernière

“L’année dernière” translates to “last year.”

  • “L’année dernière, j’ai visité la France.” (Last year, I visited France.)

3. Il y a…

“Il y a…” is used to express “ago.”

  • “Il y a trois jours, j’ai rencontré mon ami.” (I met my friend three days ago.)

4. Autrefois / Dans le passé

These phrases mean “in the past.”

  • “Autrefois, je vivais à Paris.” (In the past, I used to live in Paris.)
  • “Dans le passé, j’étais plus sportif.” (In the past, I was more athletic.)

5. Quand j’étais enfant

“Quand j’étais enfant” means “when I was a child.”

  • “Quand j’étais enfant, j’adorais jouer au football.” (When I was a child, I loved playing football.)

Describing Memories

To describe memories or past experiences, you can use phrases like:

  • “Je me souviens de…” (I remember…)
  • “Je ne me souviens pas de…” (I don’t remember…)
  • “Je me rappelle…” (I recall…)

For example:

  • “Je me souviens de mon premier jour d’école.” (I remember my first day of school.)
  • “Je ne me souviens pas de son nom.” (I don’t remember his name.)
  • “Je me rappelle de cette chanson. Nous l’écoutions toujours.” (I recall this song. We always used to listen to it.)

Reflecting on Past Events

  • “C’était incroyable quand…” (It was amazing when…)
  • “C’était une expérience inoubliable quand…” (It was an unforgettable experience when…)

For example:

  • “C’était incroyable quand nous avons atteint le sommet de la montagne.” (It was amazing when we reached the top of the mountain.)
  • “C’était une expérience inoubliable quand j’ai rencontré mon auteur préféré.” (It was an unforgettable experience when I met my favorite author.)

Speaking about the past is an essential part of learning French, as it allows you to share experiences and stories. Use these phrases and structures to practice talking about the past and enhance your French-speaking skills. Bonne chance! (Good luck!)

Leave a Comment