I've seen it before, but I don't know what it would be called. I know that some of the Romance languages used to have a specific tense used only for stories (at least, fictional ones). They're no longer used, and as a consequence only the third person conjugations are still known for most verbs.

But I don't think I've ever seen an actual name for this. I'm not even sure if its actually considered a tense, or mood, or what. Either way, could someone perhaps tell me the name of this?

  • 4
    Are you asking about the passé historique?
    – fdb
    Nov 20, 2017 at 14:35
  • 1
    So a general term that covers the passé simple, passé antérieur etc and counterparts in other languages? Nov 20, 2017 at 17:49
  • I haven't heard of anything like this in Spanish and Portuguese. Do you remember anything else?
    – pablodf76
    Nov 20, 2017 at 22:22
  • I believe in French, the third person singular conjugation for 'to be' was 'estait' or something like that, if that gives any hint. Like I said, its no longer used. Its only preserved in old stories, such as fairy tales.
    – user19661
    Nov 21, 2017 at 9:44
  • @user19661 the Spanish third person singular preterite for "estar" (transitory, non-identity "to be") is estuvo, so it may be linked to that tense. In Spanish, however, the preterite is perfectly common in speech. Oct 10, 2019 at 1:55

2 Answers 2


Like the Italian passato remoto, the French passé historique is used to narrate past events. In French it is used only in the written language, but it is certainly not the case that "only the third person conjugations are still known for most verbs". The conjugation is fully intact, but, as mentioned, it is not used in spoken French.


You could be referring to the aorist, or perhaps the "simple past" (passato remoto) that occurs in Italian which is sometimes used to place a distance between the actions described and the present context. Historical actions, or past narrative actions are often expressed in the passato remoto, which is the continuation of the Latin preterite.

However the passato remoto is perfectly productive and is not limited to the third person or defective in any particular way. Neither is it obsolete in the modern language.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.