How to Learn French Verbs

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French verbs are formed in a far more regular manner than English verbs. The good news is that this makes the job of an English speaker learning French much easier than the reverse. The bad news is that learning French verbs still requires a lot of memorization. There are also some irregular verbs, but not nearly as many as there are in English. Nonetheless, this will be time well spent as this knowledge will be needed throughout your French education.

  • French verb book French grammar guide (optional)

1 Memorize common irregular verbs

Memorize common irregular verbs such as "avoir" (to have) and "être" (to be). Start with the present tense and then move on to the past (imparfait and passé composé), future and other tenses once you have a good grasp on the present tense of regular verbs.

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2 Memorize the present tense

Memorize the present tense of regular verbs with -er endings, such as "parler" (to talk). Memorize the various conjugations by removing the -er and adding -e (first-person singular), -es (second-person singular, informal), -e (third-person singular), -ons (first-person plural), -ez (second-person formal or plural) or -ent (third-person plural).

3 Memorize the present tense of regular verbs with-ir endings such as finir -LRB- to finish -RRB

Memorize the present tense of regular verbs with -ir endings, such as "finir" (to finish). Memorize the various conjugations by removing the -ir and adding -is (first-person singular), -is (second-person singular, informal), -it (third-person singular), -issons (first-person plural), -issez (second-person formal or plural) or -issent (third-person plural).

4 Memorize the present tense of verbs

Memorize the present tense of verbs with -re endings and familiarize yourself with other irregular verbs, such as "aller," "faire," "voir," "pouvoir," "vouloir" and "savoir." Don't be too intimidated as there are common patterns even within the irregular verbs.

5 Learn the past tense starting

Learn the past tense starting with the difference between the "imparfait" and the "passé composé." The imparfait is formed by changing endings and is used for continuous action, while the passé composé is used for completed action and is formed by conjugating "avoir" or "être" and then adding the past participle of the verb.

6 Learn the conjugations for other common tenses

Learn the conjugations for other common tenses, such as the "futur simple" (simple future), "conditionnel" (conditional) and "impératif" (imperative). Once you have mastered the basic present and past tenses, you will find that the other tenses are simple variations on what you already know.

7 Study the subjunctive

Study the subjunctive. This tense is used for expressing volition or will. It is easy enough to conjugate as it is very similar to the conditionnel. However it does require practice to learn when and how to use it.

  • The passé composé is conjugated with the use of either "avoir" or "être" and the past participle of the verb. Most verbs use "avoir." The exceptions are reflexive verbs and most verbs expressing motion, such as "aller" (to go), "descendre" (to go down) and "partir" (to leave), as well as "naître" (to be born) and "mourir" (to die). Buy a French verb book and use it as a reference. Bescherelle is a classic which has been used for generations in France, but there are many good options, both in paper and online. Be confident. It is better to try and be wrong, than to not try at all.

Jenn Mercer is a Writer, Poet, and Translator (French > English) living in Raleigh, NC. She has Bachelors degrees in both English (Creative Writing) and French from NC State University. Mercer has been published in the Grapevine, Astropoetica, Talkin Blues, Nth Degree, the CATI Quarterly, The Fix, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader for Kids.

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