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).
- Verbs of the second conjugation (-ir verbs) are conjugated like finir (to finish).
- Verbs of the third conjugation (-re verbs) are conjugated like render (to give back).
Stuff to know :
- If the verb begins with a vowel or a mute h, the je becomes j’: j’arrive; j’entends; j’habite
- 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
- Verbs whose stems end in g, such as manger (to eat), add an e after the g in the nous
- 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).
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.
Stuff to know:
Verbs like appeler (to call) double the consonant after the mute e instead of changing e to è.
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.