Tag Archives: verbs

French regular verbs – present subjunctive tense

French verbs

“I hate French!”

The subjunctive in French is generally used in the present tense after expressions such as ‘il faut que’ and some verbs that also take the word ‘que’ after them. These are generally the ones that express feelings or doubts (eg vouloir and craindre), especially when two parts of a sentence have different subjects, eg ‘I want her to be happy’ becomes ‘Je veux qu’elle soit contente’. Verbs ending in -er or -re have one set of endings, but  -ir verbs have another (shown here in red):

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

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

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

Je vende          (I may sell)
Tu vendes          (You may sell – informal)
Il/elle vende          (He/she may sell)
Nous vendions          (We may sell)
Vous vendiez          (You may sell – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vendent          (They may sell – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

Je finisse          (I may finish)
Tu finisses          (You may finish – informal)
Il/elle finisse          (He/she may finish)
Nous finissions          (We may finish)
Vous finissiez          (You may finish – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles finissent          (They may finish – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Preceding Direct Objects in French

French verbs

“I hate French!”

Forming the perfect (or pluperfect) tense in French is sometimes made harder than necessary by what’s called a Preceding Direct Object (or PDO). The object of a sentence is whatever ‘suffers the action of the verb’, eg the nail in ‘he hit the nail on the head’. If the object is a pronoun and the perfect (or pluperfect) tense is being used, the French put it before the auxiliary rather than at the end of the sentence as in English, eg ‘il l‘a frappé’ or ‘he it has hit’!

You might think that’s bad enough, but the real problem is that the past participle has to agree in number and gender with the PDO, eg ‘il les a frappés‘ or ‘he’s hit them’.

When it comes to reflexive verbs, it gets even worse. By definition, every reflexive verb has a PDO, so that means you have to watch what you write when a female character is speaking, eg ‘Je me suis lavé’ for a boy, but ‘Je me suis lavée’ for a girl. Having said that, one of my male pupils once told me that the best way to get a good mark in his French prose was to tell a story in the first person and pretend to be a girl – that way, he’d get a tick every time he used a PDO!

French regular verbs – conditional tense

French verbs

“I hate French!”

The conditional tense in French is used to show that someone ‘would do’ or ‘would be doing’ something. All verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, and the endings are different (as shown here in red):

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

Je donnerais          (I would give)
Tu donnerais          (You would give – informal)
Il/elle donnerait          (He/she would give)
Nous donnerions          (We would give)
Vous donneriez          (You would give – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles donneraient          (They would give – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

Je vendrais          (I would give)
Tu vendrais          (You would give – informal)
Il/elle vendrait          (He/she would give)
Nous vendrions          (We would give)
Vous vendriez          (You would give – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vendraient          (They would give – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

Je finirais          (I would finish)
Tu finirais          (You would finish – informal)
Il/elle finirait          (He/she would finish)
Nous finirions          (We would finish)
Vous finiriez          (You would finish – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles finiraient          (They would finish – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

French regular verbs – future tense

French verbs

“I hate French!”

There is only one future tense in French, and it’s used to show that someone ‘will do’ or ‘will be doing’ something. Verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, but the endings are the same (as shown here in red):

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

Je donnerai          (I will give)
Tu donneras          (You will give – informal)
Il/elle donnera          (He/she will give)
Nous donnerons          (We will give)
Vous donnerez          (You will give – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles donneront          (They will give – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

Je vendrai          (I will sell)
Tu vendras          (You will sell – informal)
Il/elle vendra          (He/she will sell)
Nous vendrons          (We will sell)
Vous vendrez          (You will sell – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vendront          (They will sell – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

Je finirai          (I will finish)
Tu finiras          (You will finish – informal)
Il/elle finira          (He/she will finish)
Nous finirons          (We will finish)
Vous finirez          (You will finish – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles finiront          (They will finish – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

French regular verbs – past tense

French verbs

“I hate French!”

Here are the basic forms of French regular verbs in the past tense, which include the perfect (or passé composé), pluperfect, imperfect and past historic (or passé simple). All verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, and there are different endings for each that are shown here in red.

Perfect (or passé composé)

The perfect tense is used in formal written French to say someone ‘has done’ something, but they sometimes use it in conversation and casual writing in the same way we use the simple past tense (or ‘preterite’), eg ‘j’ai donné’ might mean ‘I gave’ rather than ‘I have given’ – you just need to look at the context to help you decide which is the right translation.

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

J’ai donné          (I have given or I gave)
Tu as donné          (You have given or you gave – informal)
Il/elle a donné          (He/she has given or he/she gave)
Nous avons donné          (We have given or we gave)
Vous avez donné          (You have given or you gave – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles ont donné          (They have given or they gave – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

J’ai vendu          (I have sold or I sold)
Tu as vendu          (You have sold or you sold – informal)
Il/elle a vendu          (He/she has sold or he/she sold)
Nous avons vendu          (We have sold or we sold)
Vous avez vendu          (You have sold or you sold – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles ont vendu          (They have sold or they sold – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

J’ai fini          (I have finished or I finished)
Tu as fini          (You have finished or you finished – informal)
Il/elle a fini          (He/she has finished or he/she finished)
Nous avons fini          (We have finished or we finished)
Vous avez fini          (You have finished or you finished – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles ont fini          (They have finished or they finished – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Pluperfect

The pluperfect tense is used to say someone ‘had done’ something. This is common in story-writing when an event is described that happened before that particular moment in the story, eg ‘j’avais donné’ means ‘I had given’.

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

J’avais donné          (I had given)
Tu avais donné          (You had given – informal)
Il/elle avait donné          (He/she had given)
Nous avions donné          (We had given)
Vous aviez donné          (You had given – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles avaient donné         (They had given – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

J’avais vendu          (I had sold)
Tu avais vendu          (You had sold – informal)
Il/elle avait vendu          (He/she had sold)
Nous avions vendu          (We had sold)
Vous aviez vendu          (You had sold – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles avaient vendu         (They had sold – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

J’avais fini          (I had finished)
Tu avais fini          (You had finished – informal)
Il/elle avait fini          (He/she had finished)
Nous avions fini          (We had finished)
Vous aviez fini          (You had finished – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles avaient fini         (They had finished – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Imperfect

The imperfect tense is used to say someone ‘was doing’ or ‘used to do’ something, eg ‘je donnais’ means ‘I was giving’ or ‘I used to give’.

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

Je donnais          (I was giving)
Tu donnais          (You were giving – informal)
Il/elle donnait          (He/she was giving)
Nous donnions          (We were giving)
Vous donniez          (You were giving – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles donnaient          (They were giving – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

Je vendais          (I was selling)
Tu vendais          (You were selling – informal)
Il/elle vendait          (He/she was selling)
Nous vendions          (We were selling)
Vous vendiez          (You were selling – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vendaient          (They were selling – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

Je finissais          (I was finishing)
Tu finissais          (You were finishing – informal)
Il/elle finissait          (He/she was finishing)
Nous finissions          (We were finishing)
Vous finissiez          (You were finishing – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles finissaient          (They were finishing – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Past historic (or passé simple)

The past historic is the equivalent of the simple past tense (or preterite) in English and is used in novels and other formal writing to say someone ‘did’ something, eg ‘je donnai’ means ‘I gave’ or ‘I used to give’. It is never used in conversation, where it is replaced by the perfect tense.

Verbs ending in -er, eg donner (to give)

Je donnai          (I gave)
Tu donnas          (you gave – informal)
Il/elle donna          (he/she gave)
Nous donnâmes          (we gave)
Vous donnâtes          (you gave – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles donnèrent          (they gave – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -re, eg vendre (to sell)

Je vendis          (I sold)
Tu vendis          (you sold – informal)
Il/elle vendit          (he/she sold)
Nous vendîmes          (we sold)
Vous vendîtes          (you sold – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vendirent          (they sold – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Verbs ending in -ir, eg finir (to finish)

Je finis          (I finished)
Tu finis          (you finished – informal)
Il/elle finit          (he/she finished)
Nous finîmes          (we finished)
Vous finîtes          (you finished – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles finirent          (they finished – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

 

Common French verbs – present tense

French verbs

“I hate French!”

Language changes over time because people are lazy. They’d rather say something that’s easy than something that’s correct. That means the most common words change the most, and the verbs become ‘irregular’. In French, the ten most common verbs are ‘être’, ‘avoir’, ‘pouvoir’, ‘faire’, ‘mettre’, ‘dire’, ‘devoir’, ‘prendre’, ‘donner’ and ‘aller’, and they’re all irregular apart from ‘donner’. Here are their forms in the present tense.

Note: the irregular forms are shown in red.

Etre (to be)

Je suis          (I am)
Tu es          (You are – informal)
Il/elle est          (He/she is)
Nous sommes          (We are)
Vous êtes          (You are – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles sont          (They are – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Avoir (to have)

J’ai          (I have)
Tu as          (You have – informal)
Il/elle as          (He/she has)
Nous avons          (We have – formal and/or plural)
Vous avez          (You have – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles ont          (They have – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Pouvoir (to be able to, ‘can’)

Je peux          (I can)
Tu peux          (You can – informal)
Il/elle peut          (He/she can)
Nous pouvons          (We can – formal and/or plural)
Vous pouvez          (You can – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles peuvent          (They can – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Faire (to do, to make)

Je fais          (I do or make)
Tu fais          (You do or make – informal)
Il/elle fait          (He/she does or makes)
Nous faisons          (We do or make – formal and/or plural)
Vous faites          (You do or make – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles font          (They do or make – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Mettre (to put)

Je mets          (I put)
Tu mets          (You put – informal)
Il/elle met          (He/she puts)
Nous mettons          (You put – formal and/or plural)
Vous mettez          (You put – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles mettent          (They put – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Dire (to say, to tell)

Je dis          (I say or tell)
Tu dis          (You say or tell – informal)
Il/elle dit          (He/she says or tells)
Nous disons          (We say or tell – formal and/or plural)
Vous disez          (You say or tell – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles disent          (They say or tell – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Devoir (to have to, ‘must’)

Je dois          (I have to or must)
Tu dois          (You have to or must – informal)
Il/elle doit          (He/she has to or must)
Nous devons          (We have to or must – formal and/or plural)
Vous devez          (You have to or must – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles doivent          (They have to or must – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Prendre (to take)

Je prends          (I take)
Tu prends          (You take – informal)
Il/elle prend          (He/she takes)
Nous prenons          (We take – formal and/or plural)
Vous prenez          (You take – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles prennent          (They take – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

Aller (to go)

Je vais          (I have)
Tu vas          (You have – informal)
Il/elle va          (He/she has)
Nous allons          (We have – formal and/or plural)
Vous allez          (You have – formal and/or plural)
Ils/elles vont          (They have – masculine or masculine and feminine/feminine only)

French regular verbs – present tense

French verbs

“I hate French!”

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…

Parts of speech

When is a verb not a verb? When it’s a part of speech.

English exams often ask questions about the ‘parts of speech’. This is just a fancy term for all the different kinds of words, but they’re worth knowing just in case. Just watch out for words such as ‘jump’, which can be more than one part of speech!

Noun: a word for a person, place or thing

  • abstract noun: a word to describe an idea, eg peace
  • common (or concrete) noun: a word for a thing or object, eg table
  • proper noun: the name of a person, place etc, eg Nick, London
  • collective noun: the name of a group of animals, eg herd or flock

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence with ‘the’ in front of the word. If it makes sense, it’s probably a noun, eg He looked at the ______.

Pronoun: a word that stands in for a noun

  • personal pronoun: a word that shows a person or thing, eg he, she, them
  • possessive pronoun: a word that shows the owner of an object, eg his, their
  • relative pronoun: a word that ‘relates’ to the subject just mentioned, eg who, that, which

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence with a verb after the word (but without ‘the’ or ‘a’ in front of it). If it makes sense, it’s probably a pronoun, eg ______ looked at the wall.

Verb: a doing word, eg jumped, was, pays

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence putting the word after a pronoun such as ‘he’. If it makes sense, it’s probably a verb, eg He ______ it or He ______ in the garden.

Adjective: a word that describes a noun or pronoun, eg green or young

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence putting the word between ‘the’ and a noun. If it makes sense, it’s probably an adjective, eg The ______ book lay on the table.

Article (or determiner): a word that introduces a noun

Strictly speaking, an article is just one kind of ‘determiner’, a word that introduces a noun.

  • Articles (indefinite article: a/an, definite article: the)
  • Demonstratives (thisthatthesethose)
  • Quantifiers (manymuchmoremostsome etc)

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence with the word in front of a noun. If it makes sense, it’s probably an article, eg ______ book lay on the table.

Adverb: a word that describes an adjective, adverb or verb, usually ending in -ly, eg really or quickly

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence with the word after a verb. If it makes sense, it’s probably an adverb, eg He ran ______ around the garden.

Preposition: a word that shows the position in time or space, eg in, at or after

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence about placing something somewhere, putting the word before the location. If it makes sense, it’s probably a preposition, eg She put the book ______ the table.

Conjunction (or connective): a word that connects two sentences together (sometimes called a connective), eg and, but or because.

    • Coordinating conjunctions‘ are used to make a ‘compound’ sentence when the clauses are equally important, and the two ‘main clauses’ should always be separated by a comma, eg ‘The sun was warm, but it was cooler in the shade’. There is a useful way of remembering the coordinating conjunctions, which is to use ‘FANBOYS’. This consists of the first letter of ‘for’, ‘and’, ‘nor’, ‘but’, ‘or’, ‘yet’ and ‘so’.
    • Subordinating conjunctions‘ are used to make a ‘complex’ sentence when there is a main clause and a subordinate clause. (Subordinate just means less important.) If the sentence starts with a subordinating conjunction, the clauses need a comma between them, eg ‘Even though it was very hot, he wasn’t thirsty’. However, if the subordinate clause comes at the end, there is no need for a comma, eg ‘He wasn’t thirsty even though it was very hot’. There are lots of subordinating conjunctions, such as ‘after’, ‘although’ and ‘because’, but the easy way to remember it is to ask yourself if the conjunction is in FANBOYS. If it is, it’s a coordinating conjunction; if it’s not, it’s a subordinating conjunction. Alternatively, subordinating conjunctions are sometimes known as ‘WABBITS’ because some of the commonest ones start with those letters (when, where, while, after, although, before, because, if, though and since).

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence with two clauses joined by the word. If it makes sense, it’s probably a conjunction, eg He looked at the problem ______ decided to do something about it.

Interjection: an outburst or word people say when they’re playing for time, eg hey, well, now or so

Tip: Make up a phrase or a sentence that someone might say, putting the word at the start, followed by a comma. If it makes sense, it’s probably an interjection, eg ______, can we go to the mall?

You can test yourself by reading any passage in English and going through it word by word, asking yourself what parts of speech they all are. Why not start with this article? See how fast you can go. If you’re not sure, ask yourself the questions in each of the tips shown above, eg if you think it’s a noun, can you put it into a sentence with ‘the’ in front of it?