SURVIVRE - SURVIVING
ME PRÉSENTER - INTRODUCING MYSELF
PARLER DE MON QUOTIDIEN - TALKING ABOUT MY DAILY LIFE
VOYAGER EN FRANCE - TRAVELLING IN FRANCE
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🅲🅾 Le présent de l’indicatif – Present tense

Le présent de l’indicatif


The French present tense

present tense french

A1

Conjugation

15 minutes

Écrit par / Written by: Anthony Lucas

Dernière révision / Last update: 10 April 2024

Qu’est-ce que le présent de l’indicatif ? – What is the French present tense?

In French grammar, the French present tense is used to talk about events taking place in the present. Is it? Is that so? 🤨

Yes, yes, I know, it’s a bit of a nonsense definition. Simply because the concept is obviously very easy to understand. But as you’ll see, there’s quite a lot to look at, firstly in terms of the actual use of this tense, and secondly in terms of the conjugation of verbs in this tense.

Quand utiliser le présent de l’indicatif ? – When to use the French present tense?

There isn’t a huge difference between the use of the present tense in French and English. In general, it’s used to talk about what’s topical, what’s true today, right now. There are, of course, a few structural differences, which we’ll look at in the next few sections.

Les faits dans le présent – Facts in the present

There’s nothing original about the use of the French present tense in this first section: it’s used to describe a fact, a piece of information that has always been true, for example, or at least is true in the present.

🇫🇷 French🇬🇧 English
Elle s’appelle Valérie.Her name is Valérie.
La distance entre la Terre et la lune est de 384 400 km.The distance between the Earth and the Moon is 384,400 km.

Les habitudes – Habits

The French present tense is used to talk about current habits, activities that you do on a regular basis.

🇫🇷 French🇬🇧 English
Tous les mardis soirs je joue au tennis.I play tennis every Tuesday evening.
Le samedi il va courir dans le parc avec Pierre.On Saturdays, he goes running in the park with Pierre.
The French present tense is used to talk about habits like: "Tous les mardis soirs je joue au tennis."
“Tous les mardis soirs je joue au tennis.”
The French present tense is used to talk about habits like: "Le samedi il va courir dans le parc avec Pierre."
“Le samedi il va courir dans le parc avec Pierre.”

Les événements dans un futur proche – Events in the foreseeable future

To talk about events that are going to happen soon, the French use either the future proche, a structure similar to the English one (to be going + infinitive), or the French present tense, especially when the probability of these events happening is very high.

To learn about the futur proche, have a look at the lesson Le futur proche

🇫🇷 French🇬🇧 English
Ce weekend nous visitons Zurich.This weekend we will be visiting Zurich.
Le mois prochain ils déménagent enfin !Next month they’re finally moving!

Les actions qui ont commencé dans le passé et qui continuent aujourd’hui – Actions that began in the past and continue today

Here’s a real difference between the use of the present tense and the English language! In English, there are tenses for talking about events that began in the past and continue to take place in the present (English talks about duration using the present perfect simple or continuous tenses). But in French these tenses don’t exist! So it’s the present tense that’s used, in sentences that often include the structure “depuis …” (“since …”).

🇫🇷 French🇬🇧 English
Tu portes des lunettes depuis que tu as dix ans.You’ve been wearing glasses since you were ten.
Depuis que je fais du sport régulièrement je dors mieux.I’ve been sleeping better since I started doing sport regularly.

Les actions se déroulant maintenant – Actions taking place right now

Another tense that doesn’t exist in French: the present continuous tense 😳. In English, it is used to say that something is happening now (“is happening” is actually a good example of this tense). The French don’t bother with this tense. Instead, they use the French present tense. “How then do we know whether we’re talking about a general fact or an immediate situation?” you might ask. Well, it’s less obvious than in English, but normally, given the context, you should be able to guess pretty well. But it’s true that sometimes you wonder …

🇫🇷 French🇬🇧 English
Je prépare le diner.I’m making dinner.
Il vérifie si les enfants dorment.He is checking that the children are asleep.

être en train de + infinitif – to be doing something

OK, so in French there is no equivalent tense to the present continuous … But there is a structure that can be used to express that something is happening right now. 😌 This is être + en train de + infinitive verb.

To use this structure, you need to conjugate the verb être, add the expression “en train de” (literally “in the train of” … 🚂 please don’t laugh 🤭) and finally add the verb you want to talk about, in the infinitive form.

To conjugate the verb être in the French present tense, have a look at the lesson Le verbe être.

🇫🇷 French🇬🇧 English
Je suis en train de préparer le diner.I’m making dinner.
Il est en train de vérifier si les enfants dorment.He is checking to see if the children are asleep.

Comment conjuguer les verbes au présent de l’indicatif ? – How to conjugate verbs in the French present tense?

Well well well… I am sorry but we won’t be able to give a precise answer to this question in this lesson. What is the reason? There are lots of ways of conjugating verbs in the present tense in French. Indeed, the conjugation rules change according to the ending of the infinitive verb.

So in this lesson I’ll give you some general information, but not the conjugation of ALL verbs in the French present tense. You’ll learn to conjugate the verbs as you go along.

As you may already know, French verbs are divided into 3 groups:

Les verbes du premier groupe, terminant en -er First group verbs ending in -er

First group verbs are called regular verbs and luckily, most of the French verbs belong to this category 😅 For example, the verbs marcher (walk), parler (talk), chanter (sing), aimer (love), habiter (live), regarder (look), écouter (listen) and travailler (work) are all part of this group.

To conjugate these verbs, follow this simple recipe:

  1. Take the verb in the infinitive form
  2. Get rid of the ending –er
  3. Add the following endings for each of the subjects:

je → -e
tu → –es
il, elle, on → -e

nous → -ons
vous → -ez
ils, elles → -ent

As an exemple here comes the conjugation of the verb parler in the present tense:

🇫🇷 Français🇬🇧 Anglais
je parleI talk
tu parlesyou talk
elle parleshe talks
il parlehe talks
on parlewe talk
nous parlonswe talk
vous parlezyou talk
ils parlentthey talk
elles parlentthey talk

To know more about how to conjugate the first group verbs in the French present tense, have a look at the lesson Les verbes du premier groupe.

Les verbes du deuxième groupe, terminant en -ir Second group verbs ending in -ir

Verbs in the second group end in –ir in the infinitive form. All the verbs in this category follow the same conjugation rules. But be careful! Not all verbs ending in –ir are in the second group. There are also verbs with an infinitive ending in –ir that are not conjugated in the same way. These verbs then belong to the third group.

The most common second-group verbs are: finir (finish), choisir (choose), grandir (grow), réussir (succeed), applaudir (applaud), avertir (warn), obéir (obey), réflechir (reflect), fournir (provide), garantir (guarantee), grossir (fatten), mincir (slim), guérir (heal), ralentir (slow down), réagir (react), remplir (fill) and vieillir (age). But the full list is much longer (around 400 verbs in total…).

To conjugate these verbs, follow this simple recipe:

  1. Take the verb in the infinitive form
  2. Get rid of the ending –ir
  3. Add the following endings for each of the subjects:

je → -is
tu → is
il, elle, on → -it

nous → -issons
vous → -issez
ils, elles → -issent

As an exemple here comes the conjugation of the verb finir in the present tense:

🇫🇷 Français🇬🇧 Anglais
je finisI finish
tu finisyou finish
elle finitshe finishes
il finithe finishes
on finitwe finish
nous finissonswe finish
vous finissezyou finish
ils finissentthey finish
elles finissentthey finish

Les verbes du troisième groupe Third group verbs

The third group includes all verbs that do not belong to either the first or second groups. Some verbs have a single conjugation: être (to be), avoir (to have), aller (to go), faire (to do). Other verbs form sub-groups because they end in the same way in the infinitive and therefore follow the same conjugation rules. All in all, there are many sub-groups and therefore many different ways of conjugating verbs in the third group.

This group contains around 485 verbs, far fewer than the number in the first group, which contains 90% of verbs. However, if we look at the list of French verbs by frequency, the ten most frequently used verbs in the French language all belong to the third conjugation group.

Les verbes qui terminent en -re – Verbs ending in -re

The largest subgroup is that of verbs ending in -re in the infinitive form. It is even considered to be the subgroup of regular third-group verbs. It includes the verbs vivre (live), construire (build), suivre (follow), conduire (drive), séduire (seduce) and others.

To conjugate these verbs, follow this recipe:

  1. Take the verb in the infinitive form
  2. Get rid of the ending -re or –vre
  3. Add the following endings for each of the subjects:

je → -s
tu → s
il, elle, on → -t

nous → -ons
vous → -ez
ils, elles → -ent

As an exemple here comes the conjugation of the verb suivre in the present tense:

🇫🇷 Français🇬🇧 Anglais
je suisI follow
tu suisyou follow
elle suitshe follows
il suithe follows
on suitwe follow
nous suivonswe follow
vous suivezyou follow
ils suiventthey follow
elles suiventthey follow

Les verbes du 3è groupe les plus fréquents et utiles – The most common and useful 3rd group verbs

To start speaking French, you’ll need to know how to conjugate lots of third group verbs, as some of them are used a lot. Look at the list below to see the lessons for the most common 3rd group verbs:

À RETENIR

WORTH REMEMBERING

Knowing how to conjugate the French verbs at the present tense is a priority as a beginner French learner.

But knowing how to conjugate ALL the verbs will take you a long time because of the many different rules applying to different categories of verbs.

So here is my advice: learn in priority how to conjugate the first group verbs, as they represent at least 75% of the French verbs, and the main irregular verbs (être, avoir, aller and faire).

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