The perfect tense is a compound tense comprised of the present tense of the auxiliary verb avoir ou être followed by the past participle of the relevant verb.
e.g. Je suis né il y a seize ans, which means, I was born 16 years ago.
The Past Participle
Each irregular verb takes on a particular past participle which must be learnt. A non-exhaustive list of the past participle of common irregular verbs is provided here.
The Auxiliary Verb (AVOIR/ETRE)
Transitive verbs (i.e. capable of being followed by a direct object) take the former avoir.The vast majority of French verbs fall in this category.
– ‘Motion’ verbs
– Reflexive verbs
Je me suis levé tôt ce matin, which means, I got up early this morning.
The following verbs, however, can be used to indicate motion and are also capable of transitive use. These verbs will take avoir when followed by a direct object and êtrewhen indicating motion.
-Nous sommes descendus* ensemble, which means, We went down together.
-Nous avons descendu les valises, which means, We brought down the suitcase.
-Elle déjà est montée*, which means, She already went up.
-Elle a monté la tente, which means, She set up the tent.
-Le personnage est passé de Dr. Jeckell à M. Hyde , which means, The character went from Dr. Jeckell to Mr. Hyde.
-Le personnage a passé beaucoup de temps sur la scène, which means, The character has spent much time on stage.
-Tues renté à quelle heure ?, which means, At what time did you come in?
-Tu as rentré ton vélo ?, which means, You’ve returned your bike?
-Elles sont sorties* pour faire la fête , which means, They went out to party.
-Elles ont sorti leurs plus belles robes pour l’occasion, which means, They took out their best dresses for the occasion.
Feminine subject (pro)nouns require an extra ‘e’ at the end of the past participle of the verb whilst an ‘s’ is added for plural subject (pro)nouns. (Elle est sortie, Nous sommes sortis, Elles sont sorties)
The perfect tense is used in reference to an action that has been completed in the past (and is no longer going on).