Tag Archive | Verbs

Uses of the Imperfect

The French imperfect corresponds to the English form “was/were doing”. It is used, like the English form, to describe a continuous state in the past.

  • Le soleil brillait et la mer était très calme.
  • The sun was shining and the sea was very calm.

It is also used to record an action which “was happening” at the same time as another action, or when another action intervened.

  • Nous prenions un café alors qu’on a frappé à la port.
  • We were having a coffee when someone knocked on the door.

Since the imperfect conveys this idea of simultaneity, it is used after conjunctions such as comme, or pendant que (even where English uses the simple past).

  • Comme il fermait le robinet il remarqua une fuite d’eau.
  • As he turned off/was turning off the tap, he noticed water dripping.

A second use of the imperfect is to record repeated or habitual actions in the past. This corresponds to the English form “used to” (or “would”).

  • Quand je faisais mes études, je me couchais assez tard.
  • When I was studying, I used to/would go to bed quite late.

I hope you all have a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

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Modified Infinitive Forms in the Future Tense

Several verbs have modified infinitive forms in the future tense. These verbs have the same endings as the verbs shown in this post. The je form is given as a model for the entire conjugation except in the case of pleuvoir, which is used only in third-person form.

Verbs ending in -oir lose the oi in the future tense.

  • recevoir – je recevrai
  • décevoir – je décevrai
  • devoir – je devrai
  • pleuvoir – il pleuvra

Howeverprévoir (to foresee) and pourvoir (to supply) have the future forms je prévoirai and je pourvoirai. the future of s’asseoir is je m’assiérai.


Avoir and savoir lose the oi of the infinitive, and the final v of their stems changes to u.

  • avoir – j’aurai
  • savoir – je saurai

The future of il y a is il y aura (there will be).


Vouloir loses the oi of the infinitive, and the final l of the stem changes to d.

  • vouloir – je voudrai

Valoir (to be worth) and falloir (must) also lose the oi of the infinitive and modify the stem.

  • valoir – je vaudrai
  • falloir – il faudra

Tenir and venir change their stem vowels to ie, and the i of the infinitive changes to d.

  • tenir – je tiendrai
  • venir – je viendrai

Several verbs have rr in the future tense, sometimes with a modified stem.

  • acquérir – j’acquérrai
  • courir – je courrai
  • envoyer – j’enverrai
  • mourir – je mourrai
  • pouvoir – je pourrai
  • voir – je verrai

Three verbs have irregular stems in the future.

  • aller – j’irai
  • être – je serai
  • faire – je ferai

Most compounds of verbs that are irregular in the future show the same irregularities.

  • défaire (to undo) – je déferai
  • devenir (to become) – je deviendrai
  • revenir (to come back) – je reviendrai
  • soutenir (to support) – je soutiendrai

Have a fabulous week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Imperfect – Continuing Past Action

French uses the imperfect tense to refer to past actions that are seen as continuing at another point of time in the past. English uses a had been doing something construction for this function. The French construction consists of the following elements:

  • depuis quand + imperfect [OR]
  • depuis combien de temps + imperfect [OR]
  • ça faisait combien de temps que + imperfect (colloquial) [OR]
  • il y avait combien de temps que + imperfect (colloquial)

These patterns are used to ask a question about how long something had been going on.

  • Depuis quand est-ce que tu travaillais à Québec ? | How long had you been working in Quebec?
  • Depuis combien de temps est-ce que vous étiez à la bibliothèque quand vous avez vu votre professeur ? | How long had you been at the library when you saw your professor?
  • Ça faisait combien de temps qu’ils cherchaient un logement quand on leur a offert cet appartement ? | How long had they been looking for a place to live when they were offered that apartment?
  • Il y avait combien de temps qu’elle travaillait dans cette entreprise quand ils lui ont donné une augmentation ? | How long had she been working at that company when they gave her a raise?

  • imperfect + depuis + time expression [OR]
  • ça faisait + time expression + que + imperfect (colloquial) [OR]
  • il y avait + time expression + que + imperfect (colloquial) [OR]
  • imperfect + depuis + starting point of action

These patterns are used to tell how long something had been going on.

  • J’habitais ce quartier depuis un an. | I’d been living in that neighbourhood for a year.
  • Ça faisait un an qu’ils sortaient ensemble quand ils se sont fiancés. | They had been going out for a year when they got engaged.
  • Il y avait une heure que nous attendions l’autobus quand vous nous avez aperçus. | We had been waiting for the bus for an hour when you spotted us.
  • Je travaillais à Québec depuis septembre quand j’ai dû rentrer en Belgique. | I had been working in Quebec since September when I had to go back to Belgium.

End Point Specified for Past Action

Although the imperfect is usually used to express repeated actions in the past, when the end point of those actions is specified, the verb is in the passé composé because the speaker’s focus shifts to the completion of the actions. In the following example, no end point is specified:

  • Quand j’étais petit, j’allais au bord de la mer tous les étés. | When I was a child, I went to the seashore every summer.

Notice the change in tense when an endpoint is specifically mentioned:

  • Jusqu’à l’âge de douze ans, je suis allé au bord de la mer tous les étés. | Until the age of twelve, I went to the seashore every summer.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Cognates

Many word in English and French are exactly the same in both languages. Many others have only minor changes in spelling and are easily recognised. The following will help increase your vocabulary.

Adjectives 

The suffixes -able, -ible, -al, -ant, -ent are usually the same in both languages.

admirable

horrible

commercial

confortable

possible

municipal

considérable

terrible

royal

brilliant

évident

ignorant

excellent

important

innocent

French suffixes and their usual English equivalents: -eux (-euse) = -ous; -eur = -or; -el = -al; -ique = -ic.

dangereux/euse

extérieur

habituel

fanatique

fameux/euse

intérieur

mortel

fantastique

furieux/euse

supérieur

naturel

stratégique

Nouns

The following suffixes are generally the same in French and English: -ion, -tion, -age, -ice, -ent, -ence.

attention

distraction

courage

fonction

million

passage

opinion

question

village

caprice

accident

différence

justice

instrument

patience

service

moment

silence

French suffixes and their usual English equivalents: -eur = -or, -er; -té = -ty; -ie = -y; -ique = -ic; -re = -er.

inspecteur

curiosité

compagnie

porteur

difficulté

énergie

visiteur

qualité

industrie

logique

lettre

musique

membre

république

théȃtre

Verbs

The great majority of all French verbs belong in the 1st conjugation (-er). Notice how we may derive the meaning of many of these verbs by observing the following changes in the ending:

  • The -er ending drops in English.

aider

consulter

insister

passer

profiter

  • The French -er becomes -e.

arriver

décider

désirer

préparer

refuser

  • The French -er becomes -ate.

communiquer

hésiter

indiquer

séparer


Thank you everyone for being so understanding that I needed to take the last couple of weeks off from the blog. I’m still recovering, but I’m well enough to return here.

Have an amazing week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Idiomatic Verbs – Etre

The verb être (to be) can also be used idiomatically in the following important idiomatic expressions:

être de retour (to be back)

  • Je serai de retour à neuf heures.
  • I shall be back at 9 o’clock.

être en retard (to be late)

  • J’espère que le train ne sera pas en retard.
  • I hope the train won’t be late.

être sur le point de (to be about to)

  • Nous étions sur le point de sortir.
  • We were about to leave.

être en train de (to be in the middle of)

  • Nous sommes en train de le décider.
  • We are (in the middle of) deciding it.

être enrhumé (to have a cold)

  • Maman est enrhumée et ne pourra pas nous accompagner.
  • Mom has a cold and will not be able to accompany us.

Note as well:

  • Ce n’est pas la peine.
  • It is not worth the effort.

Have a fantastic week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Idiomatic Verbs : Faire

Faire – to make, do

In addition to being one of the most common verbs in the French language, faire is also used in a variety of idiomatic expressions.

Most expressions of weather in French use faire.

  • Quel temps fait-il ? Il fait chaud.
  • [What weather makes it? It makes warm.] (Literally)
  • How is the weather? It’s warm.

  • Il fait beau (temps). Il fait froid.
  • [It makes good (weather). It makes cold.] (Literally)
  • The weather is fine. It’s cold

  • Il fait mauvais (temps). Il fait du vent.
  • [It makes bad (weather). It makes some wind.] (Literally)
  • The weather is bad. It’s windy

  • Il fait doux. Il fait du soleil.
  • [It makes mild. It makes some sun.] (Literally)
  • It’s mild. It’s sunny.

Other common expressions using faire:

  • Cela ne fait rien. | That doesn’t matter.
  • Cela ne me fait rien. | I don’t care.

Faire un voyage (to take a trip)

  • J’aimerais faire un voyage. | I would like to take a trip.

Faire une promenade (to take a walk)

  • Nous faisons une promenade. | We take a walk.

Faire des emplettes (to go shopping)

  • Je dois faire des emplettes cet après-midi. | I must go shopping this afternoon.

Faire mal (to hurt, be painful)

  • Est-ce que cela vous fait mal ? | Does that hurt you?

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Special Cases with “de”

Many verbs and verbal expressions require de before an infinitive complement. Among them are verbs signifying an interruption of the action expressed by the infinitive.

Special Cases with “de”

S’indiquer de is usually translated as “it makes (someone) indignant that”.

  • Le prof s’indigne de voir que nous ne travaillons pas.
  • It makes the professor indignant to see that we are not studying.

Se souvenir de is most often followed by the infinitive of the auxiliary + the past participle (the perfect infinitive).

  • Je ne me souviens pas de l’avoir vu.
  • I don’t remember having seen him.
  • Elle ne se souvient pas d’être sortie avec lui.
  • She doesn’t remember going out with him.

In French, n’oubliez pas de is used to tell someone to remember to do something.

  • N’oubliez pas de rédiger le rapport.
  • Remember to write up the report.

Bien faire de means “to be right in (doing something), to do the wise thing by (doing something)”.

  • Tu as bien faire de nous prévenir.
  • You were wise to let us know.

Venir de means “to have just (done something)”.

  • Il n’est plus là. Il vient de quitter le bureau.
  • He’s not here anymore. He has just left the office.

See you all next week, everyone. Have a good one!

A bientôt !

Courtney