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Tenses | Le temps des verbes

The following definitions are simple summaries of some common verb tenses.

A verb takes place in a period of time. This is called a tense.

L’indicatif présent
The present tense is used to express what is happening now, or what happens in general.

L’indicatif  passé composé
The past tense is used to describe an action in the past and it is formed with the conjugated present tense form of "avoir" or "être" followed by the past participle of the main verb.

L’indicatif  imparfait
The imperfect tense is a descriptive past tense which indicates an ongoing state of being or a repeated or incomplete action. The beginning and end of the state of being or action are not indicated, and the imperfect is often translated in English as "was" or "was ___-ing."

L’indicatif plus-que-parfait
The past perfect tense is used to express an action in the past that occurred before another action in the past. The latter can be either mentioned in the same sentence or implied.

L’indicatif futur simple
The future tense is very similar to the English future tense. It is used to talk about upcoming events.

Le subjonctif présent
The subjunctive is used to express actions or ideas which are subjective or uncertain: will/wanting, emotion, doubt, possibility, necessity, judgment. It is nearly always found in dependent clauses introduced by que or qui.

Le conditionnel présent
The conditional tense is used to express wishes, requests, hypothetical action and possibility or uncertainty. It is mainly used in si/if clauses, to express what would happen if a condition were met.

Le conditionnel passé composé
The past conditional tense is used to express events that would have happened had the original condition been fulfilled. It is used for the result clause in si/if clauses with the unmet condition in the pluperfect.

L’impératif présent
The imperative tense is used to give a command to somebody. In other words, it is similar to "ordering" someone to do something.

Le participe présent
The present participle tense is the verb form that ends in –ant. The French present participle may be an adjective, gerund, noun, or verb.