French/Grammar/Tenses/Past infinitive

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In French, the two forms of the infinitive are present and past. Read on below to learn more about the past infinitive.

Formation[edit]

The past infinitive is composed of avoir or être in infinitive form and the past participle of a verb.

  • avoir parlé - having spoken
  • être allé(e)(s) - having gone

Note that both avoir and être translate to having in English. This is the same in all composed tenses. The past participle may have an -e or -s added in order to agree with other parts of the sentence. All standard agreement rules that composed tenses follow apply to the past infinitive as well.

  • Je suis content(e) d'avoir été là. - I am happy of having been there.
  • Je suis content(e) de les avoir vu(e)s. - I am happy of having seen them.

To make the past infinitive negative, add ne pas in front of avoir or être.

  • Je suis content(e) de ne pas avoir été là. - I am happy of not having been there.

Usage[edit]

The past infinitive is always used only after prepositions, such as de, après, or sans.

  • Je suis parti(e) sans avoir entendu la fille. - I left without having heard the girl.
  • Je suis parti(e) après avoir entendu la fille. - I left after having heard the girl.

To express a similar idea without a preposition, the composed present participle is used.

  • Je suis parti(e) ayant entendu la fille. - I left having heard the girl.