French verbs

French Regular Verbs – Present Tense

Nobody likes French verbs – not even the French! – but I thought I’d start by listing the most basic forms of the regular verbs in the present tense. All French verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, and there are different endings for each that are shown here in red:

Verbs Ending in -er, eg Donner (to Give)

Je donne          (I give)
Tu donnes          (You give – informal)
Il/elle donne          (He/she gives)
Nous donnons          (We give)
Vous donnez          (You give – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles donnent          (They give – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs Ending in -re, eg Vendre (to Sell)

Je vends          (I sell)
Tu vends          (You sell – informal)
Il/elle vend          (He/she sell)
Nous vendons          (We sell)
Vous vendez          (You sell – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vendent          (They sell – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs Ending in -ir, eg Finir (to Finish)

Je finis          (I finish)
Tu finis          (You finish – informal)
Il/elle finit          (He/she finish)
Nous finissons          (We finish)
Vous finissez          (You finish – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles finissent          (They finish – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

If you’re learning French and have to memorise the present tense, it helps if you can spot the patterns:

  • The je, tu, il/elle and ils/elles forms all sound the same for -er and -re verbs (and the same is true of the je, tu and il/elle forms of -ir verbs)
  • The nous and vous forms always end in -ons and -ez (although -ir verbs have an extra -ss- in the middle)

People learn things in different ways, but the best way I’ve found is to make a recording on my phone and try to repeat the words at the same time as I listened to them on my headphones. I did a lot of acting at Oxford and in the Edinburgh Fringe, and that was the way I learned my lines.

If I made a mistake or forgot something, the recording prompted me with the right words, and I could carry on repeating the exercise until I was word-perfect. It meant I could learn my lines any time, anywhere – whether I was watching sport, making dinner or cycling around town!

Good luck…

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