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Understanding French verbs conjugation: present tense of regular verbs

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

One of the foundation of French language is its conjugation. As seen in the sentence structure building, verbs are the foundation of the sentence.

So it’s more than important to know how to use them in the sentence building.

There are several tenses in French. The basic one that any beginner should learn is present tense. That will build solid foundation before jumping to more complex tenses like past tense, conditional, subjunctive, …

In this post, we will focus on getting the skills needed for conjugating the most commonly used tense, which is present tense.

1. What’s the difference between an infinitive and a conjugated verb?

When conjugating a verb, it is essential to distinguish the infinitive and the conjugated form.

The infinitive is the initial form of the verb, the raw verb which has not yet been used in a tense. For example : Parler, finir, dire, avoir….

The conjugated form is when we start using the verb with or without a subject.

Example : Venir > To come > Infinitive

Je viens > I come > Conjugated form

Viens ! > Come ! > Conjugated form

2. Types of verbs based on their ending

Identifying the different types of verbs will help you learn more about the way they are conjugated.

French verbs are classified in 3 types of verbs :

  • The first group verbs : this includes all the verbs ending with ER. Example : Parler, manger, regarder, écouter ,…

⛔The verb aller ends with ER but is not considered as a 1st group verb as its conjugation is irregular.

  • The second group : the verbs ending with IR are classified in this category. Example . Finir, choisir, franchir, réfléchir,…

⛔Some verbs end with IR but they are not classified in the 2nd group as their conjugation is irregular. Example : dormir, partir, venir, tenir, mourir,…
  • The 3rd group : generally called the irregular group verbs, it is composed of the verbs ending with RE for the majority, OIR, and some in IR. Example : être, avoir, prendre, dire, Voir, vouloir, mourir, tenir…

The 1st and 2nd group verbs are called the regular verbs and today, our focus will be on understanding how to conjugate the French regular verbs.

Conjugating French regular verbs in present tense

3. Conjugating the French regular verbs in present tense

For this, you need to keep in mind two things : in general, a conjugated verb has a root and an ending. Both combined gives the conjugated form.

Now, how would you recognise the root and the endings to use?

That’s very simple. The choice will depend on the type of verb ; Wether it’s a 1st, or 2nd group verb. Let’s see how to conjugate each type of verbs.

  • Conjugating the first group verbs (ER)

The root is the verb without “ ER “. Example : Parler > Root = PARL

The general endings of present tense changes according to the subject.

Subject Endings

Je e

Tu es

Il/elle/on e

Nous ons

Vous ez

Ils/elles ent

Then the verb parler in present tense would be conjugated as follow :

Je parles

Tu parles

Il/elle/on parle

Nous parlons

Vous parlez

Ils/elles parlent

⛔Some verbs ending with ER have an irregular conjugation when using the pronoun Nous.
That’s the case of the verbs ending with GER like Manger, déménager, ranger, partager, ... To conjugate them, you should add the ending “eons” to the root of the “nous” form. Example : Nous mangeons, nous partageons.
For those ending with CER like commencer, avancer, for pronunciation purpose, we should add the cedille for the nous form. Example : Nous avançons, nous commençons

Other exceptions

For Verbs ending with OYER and UYER