The statement below contains avons:

nous avons regardé la télé hier soir

Shouldn't avons be excluded from this statement :

nous regardé la télé hier soir

By including avons in the first statement it translates as “we HAVE watched tv last night” but isn't it better to say “we watched tv last night”?

  • it isn't, it's the "passé composé". it's very common in french
    – goto
    Jan 14 '14 at 15:14
  • 3
    Regardé is a past participle, you're looking for an equivalent to the preterite. It exists (“nous regardâmes”), but nowadays it's only used for narration in literary works. Generally don't expect word-to-word translations to make any sense. Jan 14 '14 at 15:14
  • 1
    It's a compound tense "passé composé", avoir is the auxiliary and regardé the past participle. It is used to talk about events in the past. A language doesn't translate word for word, but an idea for an idea. Basics on wikipedia and Languageguide.org. Look for posts tagged passé-composé on fr.se too.
    – None
    Jan 14 '14 at 15:17

French and English do not make the same distinctions between past tenses. You cannot determine which tense to use in French from the tense used in English, you have to use the meaning.

“**Nous regardé*” is not grammatically correct. Regardé is a past participle, you can't use it on its own in a sentence.

“We watched TV last night” denotes an action that took place at some time in the past. The correct tense for that is passé composé: “Nous avons regardé la télé hier soir”. In literary French, you will also find passé simple in similar circumstances, but it is not used in daily life, even in writing.


You need to make a difference between the Conjugation Chart and the use of the verb forms. If you look for Preterit in a French Conjugation Chart, you will find the Passé Simple. But in fact, in French, we use the Passé Composé when English use Preterit. It's a question of habit, of language evolution.


Yes and no. Let's see how.

When the action is finished in the past one uses the passé composé form of the verb (together with the auxillary). Since “regarder” is transitive, the auxillary is “avoir” and hence the corresponding form for the first person plural.

When the action is described in sense of “was being undertaken/used to be” with it's completion being left vague, then the imparfait is used “nous regardions” (without the auxillary avoir) and directly conjugating the main verb.

(In my experience) In normal conversations though the French speakers seem quite intelligent and can make out what you want to convey by the context, tone and sense.

  • 1) Passé composé is not a verb form it is a tense. It is a compound tense formed of two verb forms:auxiliary + past participle. 2) OP is not asking about difference between imparfait and passé composé.
    – None
    Jan 14 '14 at 17:19
  • The OP is puzzled why avoir is used in past tense or why/why not it should be exluded. My answer should not be seen as a difference between passé composé and imparfait but rather when you can/cannot use avoir while describing action in the past Jan 14 '14 at 17:23
  • @Laure: From what I understand conjugation are a verb taking different forms in different situations (be it tense or person). Passé composé is a particular case of conjugation. Jan 14 '14 at 17:30
  • In your answer you do mention the difference with the imparfait, which can be misleading to someone who doesn't know about the passé composé. And French grammar being very difficult (even for some natives) I think it is better to always the proper grammatical terms, i.e. tense name, verb form, auxiliary, past participle etc.
    – None
    Jan 14 '14 at 17:35

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