The Recent Past in French

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The French recent past is a verb construction that’s used to express something that just happened. It is called the passé récent. Like the futur proche, or near future, in French, the recent past tense, or passé récent, expresses the fluidity of time. There is the composed past, or passe composé, a specific action that was begun and completed in the past.

The recent past, also called the immediate past, describes exactly what it sounds like. It is used to express something that “has just happened” in the recent or immediate past. To form the recent past, or le passé récent, you use the newly learned conjugation of venir. What the recent past literally translates to is “has come to do something.” The complete formula looks like this:

Subject + conjugated form of venir in the present tense + de + infinitive of the action verb

Take a look at these examples:

Je viens de payer. → I just paid. (I’ve come to pay)

Il vient de finir son travail. → He just finished his work. (He has come to finish his work)

Nous venons de rendre visite à notre grand-mère. → We just saw our grandmother. (We have come to see our grandmother)

To review the conjugations of venir, see Module 10. The Quizlet set in this module also practices a variety of sentences in le passé récent with verb infinitives that you can learn and review (several of which we will be learning in the following module).

In the past tense, or to say something “had just happened” (notice the difference between “has” and “had” from the original explanation in the first paragraph), we would use the imperfect tense of venir in the formula. This is a tense that you will learn in A2.2, so we will revisit le passé récent with the imperfect tense later.

We use le passé récent (the recent past) to talk about completed actions that happened shortly before the moment of speaking. In English, we use the construction have just + past participle, while in French we use the conjugated form of the verb venir. The passé récent is used to speak about a completed action that took place shortly before the moment of speaking. We can compare the recent past with the English structure have just + past participle. Create a verb in the recent past, or passé récent, by combining the present tense of venir (“to come”) with the preposition de and the action verb’s infinitive, a single word that is the basic, unconjugated form of the verb.

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