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Introduction sur les temps et les verbes – Introduction to tenses and verbs

Before learning how to conjugate the most useful verbs in French, let’s clarify some points about how conjugation generally works.



20 minutes

La conjugaison des verbes – The conjugation of the verbs

In order to speak French, you will have to conjugate verbs according to 2 main criteria:
1. the subject (I, you, he, she, …) (see lesson about the subjects)
2. the tense (past, present, futur, …)

We will talk about the infinitive form of a verb (l’infinitif) when a verb is not conjugated. This is the simplest form of a verb. When using a verb in a sentence, we need to conjugate the verb according to the subject. It means you will need to change the spelling of the verb.

Let’s take an example: in English the verb to go which is in French the verb aller. Let’s compare them:

🇬🇧 Infinitive form = To go🇫🇷 Infinitif = aller
I goje vais
you gotu vas
she goes or he goeselle va ou il va
we gonous allons
you (plural) govous allez
they goelles vont ou ils vont

In order to conjugate the verb to go at the present tense in English, you need to memorise 2 forms (go and goes).

In French, the verb aller (to go) at the present tense has 7 different forms (including the infinitive form).

Some verbs are called “réguliers” (regular) as they follow the same conjugation rules. Other verbs are irregular, meaning that they have a particular way to be conjugated.

Verbes du 1er, 2ème et 3ème groupe – 1st, 2nd and 3rd verbs groups

Three groups of verbs exist: le premier groupe (the first group), le deuxième groupe (the second
group) and le troisième groupe (the third group). The regular verbs are the ones belonging to the first and second groups because you can conjugate them by following a set of relatively uniform rules.

Verbs of the first group all end in -er at the infinitive form. They all follow the same conjugation rules (except the verb aller). You will learn soon how to conjugate verbs of the first group including the verbs manger (to eat), parler (to speak), marcher (to walk), demander (to ask), and many more.

Verbs of the second group all end in -ir at the infinitive form. They all follow the same conjugation rules.

Verbs of the third group gather all other verbs. It means you will find in this group verbs with many different ways to be conjugated. Some of these verbs are verbs that we use all the time, like aller (to go), être (to be), avoir (to have), faire (to do), and many more. You will learn soon how to conjugate and use the most useful ones.

Les temps – The tenses

By looking at the ending of the conjugated verbs, you can guess what tense is used.

As a beginner, the first objective is to be able to communicate. You will learn in priority le présent (the present tense), le passé composé (the past tense for actions) and le futur proche (the near future).

Le futur proche is not a tense but is the equivalence of the English structure “be + going to + verb”. To talk about the future French people use much more this structure than the future tense (and yes, this is an excellent news for you 🙂 ).

As an example, let’s see the verb parler:

PARLER au passé composéPARLER au présentPARLER au futur proche
j’ai parléje parleje vais parler
tu as parlétu parlestu vas parler
il a parléIl parleil va parler
nous avons parlénous parlonsnous allons parler
vous avez parlévous parlezvous allez parler
ils ont parléils parlentils vont parler
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