How to Conjugate French Verbs: A Beginner's Guide

We get it. Learning how to conjugate French verbs is not easy.With over 12,000 verbs that you need to learn, it can be feel intimidating. Especially if you compare it to English verb conjugations.For example, to conjugate aller - to go:

  • French: Je vais, tu vas, il/elle/on va, nous allons, vous allez, ils/elles vont
  • English: I go, you go, he/she/it goes, we go, they go

Notice how in French, you need to memorize five different conjugations whereas English only requires two.|

Is learning French verb conjugations easy?

But don't be alarmed. While it may feel more difficult than learning English conjugations, French verbs are easier than you think. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Only a few hundred are used regularly in everyday conversations (if not less). In fact, many native French speakers will admit that they themselves do not know all the verb conjugations. If they can get by with only the essentials, why can't you?2. These verbs may be spelt differently, but they sound quite similar
3. You do need to memorize the irregular verbs and know them by heart. However, it's only a few dozen that are used frequently.

3 Helpful Tips to Conjugating Verbs in French

Now it all sounds great to hear that learning French conjugations is easy. The question is: are there tactics and tips we can implement to make it easier? Yes there are!

Tip #1. Focus on the most commonly used French verbs

Like the Pareto's law states, 80% of results come from 20% of our efforts. In this specific case, we can apply this by learning only the most commonly used French verb conjugations. Luckily, we'll be sharing these to you below so you can be on the right path to learning in the most effective way possible.

Tip #2. Remember the irregular verbs by heart (the most used ones)

When it comes to irregular verbs, they are case-by-case verbs without any verb endings that follow a pattern. That means we will need to memorize these individually. But don't worry there are only a few dozen you'll need to remember, and we also recommend focusing on the first 20-25 most common ones.To help you memorize for effectively, use free flashcard tools online like Memrise or Mnemonic tools.

Tip #3. Work with a private French tutor

Last but not least, learning on your own can only take you so far. While it is tempting to go at it alone, you'll go much farther and faster when you work with a professional French tutor. The main reasons are: you're getting immediate feedback when you inevitably make mistakes, and you're able to verbally put these verbs into real-life conversations.

We all know that one person who knows all the vocabulary in the world in a foreign language, but blank out when they try speaking in-person.

How to Conjugate the Most Common French Verbs

We're going to focus on teaching you the most commonly used verb conjugations in French to maximize your time to output. In French, there are three main verb endings: –er, -ir, or –re. Verb endings are the 2 last letters that you'll have to change depending on the:

  • Person: I, you (1st person), he/she/it, we, you (2nd persron), they
  • Tenses: Present, future, past
  • Mood, Gender, Voices

Regular French verb conjugation

Let's start with the easy conjugations: regular verbs. The beauty of these are that they follow the same pattern of endings that you can apply to all future regular verbs. So the next time you run into a regular French verb, you just need to look at the last two letters of the verb (i.e. er, ir, re) and follow these conjugations.

1. -ER endings

Example: Accepter - To accepta. Present tense

  • j'accepte
  • tu acceptes
  • il accepte
  • nous acceptons
  • vous acceptez
  • ils acceptent

b. Imperfect tense

  • j'acceptais
  • tu acceptais
  • il acceptait
  • nous acceptions
  • vous acceptiez
  • ils acceptaient

c. Future tense

  • j'accepterai
  • tu accepteras
  • il acceptera
  • nous accepterons
  • vous accepterez
  • ils accepteront

2. -IR endings

Example: Finir - To finisha. Present tense

  • je finis
  • tu finis
  • il finit
  • nous finissons
  • vous finissez
  • ils finissent

b. Imperfect tense

  • je finissais
  • tu finissais
  • il finissait
  • nous finissions
  • vous finissiez
  • ils finissaient

c. Future tense

  • je finirai
  • tu finiras
  • il finira
  • nous finirons
  • vous finirez
  • ils finiront

3. -RE endings

Example: Perdre - To losea. Present tense

  • je perds
  • tu perds
  • il perd
  • nous perdons
  • vous perdez
  • ils perdent

b. Imperfect tense

  • je perdais
  • tu perdais
  • il perdait
  • nous perdions
  • vous perdiez
  • ils perdaient

c. Future tense

  • je perdrai
  • tu perdras
  • il perdra
  • nous perdrons
  • vous perdrez
  • ils perdront

Irregular French verb conjugation

Remember what we said about irregular verbs before? Unlike regular verbs, there are no patterns you can follow. Each will have different endings which means you'll need to memorize these one-by-one. However, we suggest focusing on the most common ones first, which we'll share below for you.

1. être – to be

The verb être is used when you're trying to indicate how things are going. If someone asks you how you're feeling, you could say 'je suis bien!'.a. Present tense

  • je suis
  • tu es
  • il est
  • nous sommes
  • vous êtes
  • ils sont

b. Imperfect tense

  • j'étais
  • tu étais
  • il était
  • nous étions
  • vous étiez
  • ils étaient

c. Future tense

  • je serai
  • tu seras
  • il sera
  • nous serons
  • vous serez
  • ils seront

2. savoir - to know

Savoir is another important irregular verb to remember. You'll use it quite often (imagine how much you use 'I know' or 'you know?' in English) throughout your everyday conversations. Despite needing to memorize different endings per each 'person', it'll be worth it once you know it.

a. Present tense

  • je sais
  • tu sais
  • il sait
  • nous savons
  • vous savez
  • ils savent

b. Imperfect tense

  • je savais
  • tu savais
  • il savait
  • nous savions
  • vous saviez
  • ils savaient

c. Future tense

  • je saurai
  • tu sauras
  • il saura
  • nous saurons
  • vous saurez
  • ils sauront

3. voir - to see

You will see, you saw, you see? Another quite common verb used not just in the present tense form but also in future and past.

a. Present tense

  • je vois
  • tu vois
  • il voit
  • nous voyons
  • vous voyez
  • ils voient

b. Imperfect

  • je voyais
  • tu voyais
  • il voyait
  • nous voyions
  • vous voyiez
  • ils voyaient

c. Future tense

  • je verrai
  • tu verras
  • il verra
  • nous verrons
  • vous verrez
  • ils verront

4. aller - to go

If you've ever watched a sporting event with the French, you'll notice the words 'allez' come up a lot. It's referring to 'you' in second person, like the way we say 'Let's go!' in English.

a. Present tense

  • je vais
  • tu vas
  • il va
  • nous allons
  • vous allez
  • ils vont

b. Imperfect

  • j'allais
  • tu allais
  • il allait
  • nous allions
  • vous alliez
  • ils allaient

c. Future tense

  • j'irai
  • tu iras
  • il ira
  • nous irons
  • vous irez
  • ils iront

5. avoir - to have

"I have an exam tomorrow", "I have two hundred dollars to spend on this event", etc. Keep in mind that in French, when you use 'Je' and a vowel (aeiou), you'll merge these together. For example: J'ai instead of Je ai.

a. Present tense

  • j'ai
  • tu as
  • il a
  • nous avons
  • vous avez
  • ils ont

b. Past tense

  • j'avais
  • tu avais
  • il avait
  • nous avions
  • vous aviez
  • ils avaient

c. Future tense

  • j'aurai
  • tu auras
  • il aura
  • nous aurons
  • vous aurez
  • ils auront

6. faire - to make

Notice the similarities of faire and savoir in the present tense. Luckily for us, we've already familiarized ourselves with the endings, so you won't need to remember this one over again. At least for the present tense. Try to see if you can recognize any other patterns or duplicate endings, it may just save you a ton of time and effort!

a. Present tense

  • je fais
  • tu fais
  • il fait
  • nous faisons
  • vous faites
  • ils font

b. Imperfect

  • je faisais
  • tu faisais
  • il faisait
  • nous faisions
  • vous faisiez
  • ils faisaient

c. Future tense

  • je ferai
  • tu feras
  • il fera
  • nous ferons
  • vous ferez
  • ils feront

7. vouloir - to want to

I want this, I want that. If you truly want to express how you feel and get what you want, you'll need to know how to use this irregular verb inside and out.

a. Present tense

  • je veux
  • tu veux
  • il veut
  • nous voulons
  • vous voulez
  • ils veulent

b. Imperfect

  • je voulais
  • tu voulais
  • il voulait
  • nous voulions
  • vous vouliez
  • ils voulaient

c. Future tense

  • je voudrai
  • tu voudras
  • il voudra
  • nous voudrons
  • vous voudrez
  • ils voudront

French verb conjugation guide

We hope these common French verb conjugations were useful. It's certainly not only ones you'll need to learn in order to speak French with confidence. However, being familiar with these verbs alone will be a major step to helping you get there.

Keep in mind that once you learn the ending rules of present verbs, you can apply this to all of them as long as you recognize the differences between the regular and irregular verbs. This is why it's equally as important to learn the most common irregular French verb conjugations. Because once you know a few dozen, you can assume that any endings in -ir, -er, and -re will be regular ones.

Best of luck on your journey and let us know how it goes! We'd greatly appreciate it if you could share this conjugation guide with a friend.

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