To learn French effectively, you’ll also need to learn French verb conjugation. This post is your ultimate guide!
French verb conjugation
Do you feel like French verb conjugation is a black hole you can’t find your way out of? If so, you are not alone. Many learners struggle to understand the rules and exceptions of this often challenging aspect of the French language.
We all know that to speak a language fluently, we must be able to conjugate verbs correctly. However, things aren’t quite as simple as they first seem regarding the French language.
An abundance of rules and exceptions can make even native speakers sweat. But – don’t worry – we have got you covered! In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about verb conjugation in French and go from struggling with it to confidently using it in everyday speaking and writing situations.
What is verb conjugation?
The French verb conjugation changes a verb to reflect its person, number, tense, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories. In the French language, it usually involves adding endings to the verb to make it agree with the subject in terms of tense, person, and number.
If you break down the word, “conjugation”, you can see that it is made up of two parts – “conjuga” (which means “to join”) and “tion” (which is a “state of being”). Together, these two parts explain exactly what verb conjugation is – it is the process of joining a verb to its subject to express the present (or any other) state of being of both subject and verb.
The basics of verb conjugation in French
Before we delve into how to conjugate specific types of verbs, it is important to note that a few things are specific to the French language. Firstly, French verbs do not have a tense but a state of being.
In other words, they are conjugated based on the subject’s state of mind, not when the event occurs. Another difference is that French verbs have a masculine and feminine form (unlike in English) and both a singular and plural form.
When you are conjugating a verb in French, you need to be aware of who you are speaking to (i.e., whether they are male or female) and whether you are speaking to one person or many.
Types of French verbs
There are two types of verbs in the French language – regular and irregular. Regular verbs follow a set pattern for conjugation, whereas irregular verbs are more complex and often have multiple conjugations.
These are verbs that follow a predictable pattern for conjugation. They are broken down into three main types – -er verbs, -re verbs, and verbs with no ending. -er verbs – These verbs end in “er” and are the most common type of regular verb in the French language.
For example, the verb “appeler” (to call) is a -er verb. Take note, however, that not all verbs that end in “er” are regular verbs. -re verbs – These verbs end in “re” and account for about 20% of all regular verbs.
They are mostly used to describe actions and emotions. For example, the verb “craquer” (to crack) is a -re verb. Verbs with no ending – These are very rare and consist mainly of compounds broken down into parts. For example, the verb “casser” (to break) is a verb with no end.
Irregular verbs in French
A quick word on irregular verbs. These verbs don’t follow a set pattern in conjugation, meaning you must memorize each of their forms.
While this may seem intimidating, it is less common than the other verbs. To give an example of an irregular verb, we can use “aller” (to go) as it has four variations in terms of conjugation.
- “aller” (to go) is the present tense of the verb “aller”.
- “allé” is the past tense of “aller”.
- “irai” is the future tense of “aller”.
- “allons” is the present tense of “aller” when it is conjugated for “nous” (we).
Regular -er verbs in French
This is the most common type of regular verb in the French language and is one you will most likely come across during your studies. To conjugate an -er verb, you drop the “er” and replace it with one of the following endings.
- er verb ends in “er” Example: appeler (to call)
- er verb ends in “eler” (i.e., the letters “el” at the end of the verb) Example: classer (to sort)
- er verb ends in “oler” (i.e., the letters “ol” at the end of the verb) Example: soler (to resole)
- er verb ends in “uler” (i.e., the letters “ul” at the end of the verb) Example: sucer (to suck)
Regular -re verbs in French
This is the second most common type of regular verb in the French language. To conjugate an -re verb, you must drop the “re” and replace it with one of the following endings.
- re verb ends in “re” Example: acheter (to buy)
- re verb ends in “er” (i.e., the letters “er” at the end of the verb) Example: chercher (to look for)
- re verb ends in “ir” (i.e., the letters “ir” at the end of the verb) Example: finir (to finish)
- re verb ends in “oir” (i.e., the letters “oir” at the end of the verb) Example: dormir (to sleep)
French verb conjugation can seem intimidating, but it is quite straightforward. The main thing to remember is that verbs are conjugated based on their subject.
Every verb has a different ending for each person, number, tense, mood, and voice. Furthermore, you need to be aware that some verbs are irregular, which means that they don’t follow a set pattern.
In these cases, you will have to memorize each of their forms. So, now that you know all there is to know about verb conjugation in French, you should be prepared for these grammar rules.