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)
Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)
Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)
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!