Verbs – Present Tense

Verbs – Present Tense

In French, most verbs are divided into three conjugations, according to the ending of the infinitive:

  • First conjugation: -er verbs like parler
  • Second conjugation: -ir verbs like finir
  • Third conjugation : -re verbs like rendre

The present tense of regular –er, -ir, and –re verbs

The present tense of a regular verb is formed by dropping the infinitive ending (-er, -ir, -re) and adding the appropriate present tense ending.

  • Verbs of the first conjugation (-er verbs) are conjugated like parler (to speak).

Singular

Je parle

Tu parles

Il/Elle/On parle

Plural

Nous parlons

Vous parlez

Ils/Elles parlent

  • Verbs of the second conjugation (-ir verbs) are conjugated like finir (to finish).

Singular

Je finis

Tu finis

Il/Elle/On finit

Plural

Nous finissons

Vous finissez

Ils/Elles finissent

 

  • Verbs of the third conjugation (-re verbs) are conjugated like render (to give back).

Singular

Je rends

Tu rends

Il/Elle/On rend

Plural

Nous rendons

Vous rendez

Ils/Elles rendent

Stuff to know :

  1. If the verb begins with a vowel or a mute h, the je becomes j’: j’arrive; j’entends; j’habite
  2. The subject pronoun on refers to people in general or to a nonspecific subject. It is often the equivalent to the passive voice in English: Ici on parle français. French is spoken On cherche un secrétaire. Secretary wanted.

Spelling changes in the present tense of regular –er verbs

First conjugation verbs whose stems end in c, g, or y have spelling changes in the present tense. These changes are required by the rules of French spelling.

  • Verbs whose stems end in c, such as commencer (to begin), add a cedilla under the c (ç) in the nous

Singular

Je commence

Tu commences

Il/Elle/On commence

Nous commençons

Vous commencez

Ils/Elles commencent

  • Verbs whose stems end in g, such as manger (to eat), add an e after the g in the nous

Singular

Je mange

Tu manges

Il/Elle/On mange

Nous mangeons

Vous mangez

Ils/Elles mangent

  • Verbs whose stems end in y, such as nettoyer (to clean), change the y to i before a silent e (all the singular forms and the third person plural).

Singular

Je nettoie

Tu nettoies

Il/Elle/On nettoie

Nous nettoyons

Vous vettoyez

Ils/Elles nettoient

Stuff to know :

Verbs ending in –ayer may either make the above change or keep the y in all forms: je paie or je paye. Verbs in –oyer and –uyer must change y to i before a silent e.

First conjugation (-er) verbs with mute e as the stem vowel

First conjugation verbs that have mute e as their stem vowel, such as acheter (to buy), change the mute e to è in those forms where the ending has a mute e.

Singular

J’achète

Tu achètes

Il/Elle/On achète

Nous achetons

Vous achetez

Ils/Elles achètent

Stuff to know:

Verbs like appeler (to call) double the consonant after the mute e instead of changing e to è.

Singular

J’appelle

Tu appelles

Il/Elle/On appelle

Nous appelons

Vous appelez

Ils/Elles appellent

First conjugation (-er) verbs with é as the stem vowel

Verbs that have é as the stem vowel, such as espérer (to hope), change é to è when the ending has a mute e.

Singular

J’espère

Tu espères

Il/Elle/On espère

Nous espérons

Vous espérez

Ils/Elles espèrent

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