The current PASSAGE syntactic representation is the result of 9 years of constant evolution with the aim of providing a common ground for evaluating parsers of French whatever their type and supporting theory. In this paper we present the latest developments concerning the formalism and show first through a review of basic linguistic phenomena that it is a plausible minimal common ground for representing French syntax in the context of generic black box quantitative objective evaluation. For the phenomena reviewed, which include: the notion of syntactic head, apposition, control and coordination, we explain how PASSAGE representation relates to other syntactic representation schemes for French and English, slightly extending the annotation to address English when needed. Second, we describe the XML format chosen for PASSAGE and show that it is compliant with the latest propositions in terms of linguistic annotation standard. We conclude discussing the influence that corpus-based evaluation has on the characteristics of syntactic representation when willing to assess the performance of any kind of parser.