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  • Andrew Starr

Verbs and tenses

Tenses in French and English... There are less tenses in French than in English so I will try and explain the equivalent use of the French and English tenses in this blog post. A short link to this page is: tinyurl.com/asverb


N.B. If you really are serious about getting to grips with French verbs, this workbook is excellent for taking you through all their various formations.


This online book on the Languages Advisor website is also very useful

First of all, in all other languages I know, verbs start with what is grammatically known as the 'infinitive'. In most languages it is a particular form of the verb. In English it is the verb with the word 'to' in front of it, in virtually all cases.


In French, there are three 'families' of verbs. Their family is indicated by the two letters the infinitive ends in. If you were to look up a verb in a French-English Dictionary you would be given the 'infinitive' form. These families are '-er', '-ir', and '-re'


The largest family of verbs in French is the '-er' family. They are also the most well-behaved and pleasant family as the majority of their members follow all the rules of grammar and are known as 'regular verbs' - of course there are the odd naughty ones among them who do not follow all the rules, and could be called 'irregular verbs' .


A book called 501 French Verbs covers the most important ones to know all sorted for you.

Amazon usually has it in stock



The Present Tense


Present Tense - 'er' verbs

Using the verb to play (jouer) from the 'er' family of verbs. It is a regular verb and many of the family will follow the rule.


To form the 'stem' of the verb, you need to remove its family ending so in the case of 'jouer' you remove the'-er' and you are left with the stem 'jou-'



To form the present tense of the verb 'jouer' you put the following endings on to the stem for each person you are referring to... (The grammatical term for the person you are referring to is in brackets at the end of this tense for future reference.)


Je joue I play/I am playing/ I do play (1st pers sing)

Tu joues You play/you are playing/you do play (2nd pers sing/inf)

Il joue He plays/he is playing/he does play (3rd pers sing masc)

Elle joue She plays/she is playing/she does play (3rd pers sing fem)

On joue One plays/one is playing/one does play (3rd pers sing gen)

Nous jouons We play/we are playing/we do play (1st pers pl)

Vous jouez You play/you are playing/you do play (2nd pers pl/form)

Ils jouent They play/they are playing/they do play (3rd pers pl masc*)

Elles jouent They play/they are playing/they do play (3rd pers fem)


* Ils is used for a group of male people or things and also for a mixed group of male and female people or masculine and feminine items.

Elles is used exclusively for a group of female people or feminine items.


New language formulation by popular demand...

There are currently many new word for transgender where we would use 'they/them/their' in English... French grammar cannot work like that.


The most commonly used new pronoun "iel" (or "ielle") is a french genderneutral neopronoun. it's a contraction of "il" (the male pronoun) and "elle" (the female pronoun). plural: "iels"...


Can you know conjugate the verb 'donner' = to give, in all its present tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Present Tense - 'ir' verbs

The next largest family of verbs in French is the '-ir' family. They are a mixture family the majority of their members follow similar rules of grammar and are known as 'regular verbs' - this time there are more 'naughty' ones among them who do not follow all the rules, called 'irregular verbs' some of the 'irregular' ones have formed their own ideas and have stolen from the 'er' family their plural verb endings!


Using the verb to finish (finir) from the 'ir' family of verbs. It is a regular verb and a fair number of the family will follow the rule.


To form the 'stem' of the verb, you need to remove its family ending so in the case of 'finir' you remove the'-ir' and you are left with the stem 'fin-'


Je finis I finish/I am finishing/ I do finish (1st pers sing)

Tu finis You finish/you are finishing/you do finish (2nd pers sing/inf)

Il finit He finishes/he is finishing/he does finish (3rd pers sing masc)

Elle finit She finishes/she is finishing/she does finish (3rd pers sing fem)

On finit One finishes/one is finishing/one does finish (3rd pers sing gen)

Nous finissons We finish/we are finishing/we do finish (1st pers pl)

Vous finissez You finish/you are finishing/you do finish (2nd pers pl/form)

Ils finissent They finish/they are finishing/they do finish (3rd pers pl masc)

Elles finissent They finish/they are finishing/they do finish (3rd pers fem)


Can you know conjugate the verb 'choisir' = to choose, in all its present tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Present Tense - 're' verbs

The smallest family (thankfully) of verbs in French is the '-re' family. They are a delinquent family some of their members follow similar rules of grammar and are known as 'regular verbs' - this time there are many naughty ones among them who have ASBOs, called 'irregular verbs'.

Irregular verbs from all families just have to be learned!


Using the verb to sell (vendre) from the 're' family of verbs. It is a regular verb and some of the family will follow the rule.


To form the 'stem' of the verb, you need to remove its family ending so in the case of 'vendre' you remove the'-re' and you are left with the stem 'vend-'


Je vends I sell/I am selling/ I do sell (1st pers sing)

Tu vends You sell/you are selling/you do sell (2nd pers sing/inf)

Il vend He sells/he is selling/he does sell (3rd pers sing masc)

Elle vend She sells/she is selling/she does sell (3rd pers sing fem)

On vend One sells/one is selling/one does sell (3rd pers sing gen)

Nous vendons We sell/we are selling/we do sell (1st pers pl)

Vous vendez You sell/you are selling/you do sell (2nd pers pl/form)

Ils vendent They sell/they are selling/they do sell (3rd pers pl masc)

Elles vendent They sell/they are selling/they do sell (3rd pers fem)


Can you know conjugate the verb 'rendre' = to return (an item), in all its present tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Reflexive Verbs

Another group of verbs that must be observed are known as 'reflexive' verbs. These verbs are often used where we might use the verb 'to get...' in English...


Regular verbs from these groups also belong to the same families of verbs ('-er', '-ir', and '-re'), except they have an extra pronoun. These pronouns are always the same and it you switch them it does change the meaning.


Remember the conjugation of regular verbs follows the same as those above...

Let's use the verb 'se laver' - 'to wash oneself' (to get washed)


Je me lave I wash myself/I am washing.../ I do wash...

Tu te laves You wash yourself/you are washing.../you do wash...

Il se lave He washes himself/he is washing.../he does wash ...

Elle se lave She washes herself/she is washing.../she does wash...

On se lave One washes oneself/one is washing.../one does wash...

Nous nous lavons We wash ourselves/we are washing.../we do wash...

Vous vous lavez You wash yourself/yourselves/you are washing.../you do wash...

Ils se lavent They wash themselves/they are washing.../they do wash...

Elles se lavent They wash themselves/they are washing.../they do wash...


Can you now conjugate: se relaxer, se réunir and se rendre ? (to relax oneself, to meet up with one another, to take yourself off to)


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Perfect Tense


The perfect tense in French is used for a similar pattern of three tenses in English.

Here you have two parts to the verb:

  1. An auxiliary verb (either 'avoir' or 'être' in the present tense, for most verbs it is 'avoir') and

  2. the past participle of the relevant verb.

In order to form the past participle of the relevant regular verb you need to remove the verbs infinitive (family) ending and replace it with the correct ending for its family...


For 'er' verbs you remove the 'er' and replace it with 'é'

For 'ir' verbs you remove the 'ir' and replace it with 'i'

For 're' verbs you remove the 're' and replace it with 'u'


There are again many irregular verbs and they have their own ideas about forming their past participles and just have to be learned.


Perfect Tense 'er' verbs


In the case of 'jouer' you remove the 'er' ending and you replace it with '' Placing the correct form of the verb 'avoir' in the present tense according to the person you are referring to.


J'ai joué I played/I have played/ I did play (1st pers sing)

Tu as joué You played/you have played/you did play (2nd pers sing/inf)

Il a joué He played/he has played/he did play (3rd pers sing masc)

Elle a joué She played/she has played/she did play (3rd pers sing fem)

On a joué One played/one has played/one did play (3rd pers sing gen)

Nous avons joué We played/we have played/we did play (1st pers pl)

Vous avez joué You played/you have played/you did play (2nd pers pl/form)

Ils ont joué They played/they have played/they did play (3rd pers pl masc)

Elles ont joué They played/they have played/they did play (3rd pers fem)


Can you know conjugate the verb 'donner' = to give, in all its perfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)

Perfect Tense 'ir' verbs


In the case of 'finir' you remove the 'ir' ending and you replace it with '-i' Placing the correct form of the verb 'avoir' in the present tense according to the person you are referring to.


J'ai fini I finished/I have finished/ I did finish (1st pers sing)

Tu as fini You finished/you have finished/you did finish (2nd pers sing/inf)

Il a fini He finished/he has finished/he did finish (3rd pers sing masc)

Elle a fini She finished/she has finished/she did finish (3rd pers sing fem)

On a fini One finished/one has finished/one did finish (3rd pers sing gen)

Nous avons fini We finished/we have finished/we did finish (1st pers pl)

Vous avez fini You finished/you have finished/you did finish (2nd pers pl/form)

Ils ont fini They finished/they have finished/they did play (3rd pers pl masc)

Elles ont fini They finished/they have finished/they did finish (3rd pers fem)


Can you know conjugate the verb 'choisir' = to choose, in all its perfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Perfect Tense 're' verbs


In the case of 'vendre' you remove the 're' ending and you replace it with '-u' Placing the correct form of the verb 'avoir' in the present tense according to the person you are referring to.

[to sell in English is irregular!]


J'ai vendu I sold/I have sold/ I did sell (1st pers sing)

Tu as vendu You sold/you have sold/you did sell (2nd pers sing/inf)

Il a vendu He sold/he has sold/he did sell (3rd pers sing masc)

Elle a vendu She sold/she has sold/she did sell (3rd pers sing fem)

On a vendu One sold/one has sold/one did sell (3rd pers sing gen)

Nous avons vendu We sold/we have sold/we did sell (1st pers pl)

Vous avez vendu You sold/you have sold/you did sell (2nd pers pl/form)

Ils ont vendu They sold/they have sold/they did sell (3rd pers pl masc)

Elles ont vendu They sold/they have sold/they did sell (3rd pers fem)


Can you know conjugate the verb 'rendre' = to return (an item/thing), in all its perfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


The Perfect Tense with être as an auxiliary...


There are around 13 verbs in French which take être as an auxiliary - what do they sort of all have in common ? (make a mental note of this, once you have figured it out - it can help you remember) the same rule applies to verbs in Italian, Spanish and German (and no doubt other languages which use the equivalent of 'to be' as their auxiliary in the Perfect Tense formation).


These verbs can be thought of as five pairs of opposite meaning verbs and three besides (this is how I learned them)


This link shows another way of thinking ('la maison du bien être') some people prefer this image to help them remember the verbs that take 'être' in the perfect tense.


aller monter entrer arriver naître

venir descendre sortir partir mourir tomber, rester and retourner


(If these verbs have prefixes added to them, then they will usually also take être as an auxiliary. e.g. revenir, remonter, repartir, renaître...)


Some of these verbs have a basic (masculine) part participle that follows the regular pattern you have learned for verbs that take 'avoir'. Apart from the auxiliary being 'être', these verbs' past participles must also agree with both number and gender (masculine/feminine/plural)


Here are the verbs that have the regular past participle pattern to form the masculine form of the past participle:


aller, monter, entrer, arriver, descendre, sortir, partir, tomber, rester and retourner. (Using the rules you have learned above you can form their masculine past participle quite easily)

To form the feminine past participle you should add an '-e' to form the masculine plural past participle you should add an '-s' to the masculine singular. If the subject is both feminine and plural then you should '-es'.


The ones that have irregular masculine past participles are:


naître (e)(s)

mourir mort(e)(s)

venir venu(e)(s)


Here is an example of the formation of the verb aller: (to use other verbs replace the past participle of aller with that of the relevant verb)


je suis allé(e) I went/I have gone/I did go

tu es allé(e) You went/you have gone/you did go

il est allé He went/he has gone/he did go

elle est allée She went/she has gone/she did go

on est allé[(e)(s)]* One went/one has gone/one did go

nous sommes allé(e)s We went/we have gone/we did go

vous êtes allé(e)(s) You went/you have gone/ you did go

ils sont allés They went/they have gone/they did go

elles sont allées They went/they have gone/they did go


* 'On' is grammatically singular and masculine, it is more used in spoken French, however in modern use on is becoming more and more used where 'nous' would be used in a more in a more formal setting. So, grammatically there is no need to make the past participle agree when using 'on', but agreement is very often used when it is known that more than one person is involved or that it is exclusively female, or both. Whatever agreement is used, the pronunciation is exactly the same!!

Could you work out the pattern for the verbs 'naître' and 'monter' following the example of 'aller' above?

The Perfect Tense of Reflexive Verbs...


All the other 'rules' are the same, just the extra 'reflexive' word is included...


Let's use 'se laver' as the example...


Je me suis lavé(e) I washed myself/I have washed.../ I did wash...

Tu t'es lavé(e) You washed yourself/you have washed.../you did wash...

Il s'est lavé(e) He washed himself/he has washed.../he did wash ...

Elle s'est lavé(e) She washed herself/she has washed.../she did wash...

On s'est lavé(e) One washed oneself/one has washed.../one did wash...

Nous nous sommes lavé(e)(s) We washed ourselves/we have washed.../we did wash...

Vous vous êtes lavé(e)(s) You wash edyourself/yourselves/you are washing.../...wash

Ils se sont lavés They washed themselves/they have washed.../they did wash...

Elles se sont lavées They washed themselves/they have washed.../they did wash...


Another guru of French learning Laura K Lawless has kindly placed a list of 1, 500 French verbs all conjugated for reference on her website <<Click on that link<<

These images might help with some of the most common irregular verbs





Can you now conjugate the perfect tense forms of: 'se relaxer', 'se réunir' and 'se rendre' ? following the example of 'se laver' above the images...


These will help you learn the irregular verbs, of which there are many! and of course to help you check you have got your words correct. In order to speak French fluently you do need to learn the irregular verbs, there's no quick solution...


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Other useful tenses:


The Imperfect Tense


To talk about things that happened over a long period in the past; to talk about what was happening when something else happened.


This tense is conjugated in the same way no matter which family of verbs the verb belongs to. The stem is formed by taking the 'nous' form of the verb in its present tense and removing the final '-ons'.

(For most verbs this stem is the same as the stem you get by removing the final '-er', '-ir', and '-re' but this does not apply to ALL verbs as you will see in the examples)


The exception to the rule is the verb 'être' whose stem is 'ét-'


Let's look at the verb 'jouer' as an example. In English, this tense translates as "I was playing', "I used to play", or sometimes 'I (once) played' e.g. 'When I was 7 I often played (used to play) table tennis'.


The 'nous' form of the verb 'jouer' is 'nous jouons'. Remove the 'ons' and you are left with 'jou-'


je jouais I was playing/I used to play/...

tu jouais You were playing/you used to play/...

il jouait He was playing/he used to play/...

elle jouait She was playing/she used to play/...

on jouait One was playing/one used to play/...

nous jouions We were playing/we used to play/...

vous jouiez You were playing/you used to play/...

ils jouaient They were playing/they used to play/...

elles jouaient They were playing/they used to play/...


Can you know conjugate the verb 'donner' = to give, in all its imperfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Using 'finir' whose 'nous' form is 'finissons'. Remove the 'ons' and you are left with 'finiss-'. This stem is different from the one you would get if you had just removed the '-ir'.


je finissais I was finishing/I used to finish/...

tu finissais You were finishing/you used to finish/...

il finissait He was finishing/he used to finish/...

elle finissait She was finishing/she used to finish/...

on finissait One was finishing/one used to finish/...

nous finissions We were finishing/we used to finish/...

vous finissiez You were finishing/you used to finish/...

ils finissaient They were finishing/they used to finish/...

elles finissaient They were finishing/they used to finish/...


Can you know conjugate the verb 'choisir' = to choose, in all its imperfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Using 'vendre' whose 'nous' form is 'vendons'. Remove the 'ons' and you are left with 'vend-'.


je vendais I was selling/I used to sell/...

tu vendais You were selling/you used to sell/...

il vendait He was selling/he used to sell/...

elle vendait She was selling/she used to sell/...

on vendait One was selling/one used to sell/...

nous vendions We were selling/we used to sell/...

vous vendiez You were selling/you used to sell/...

ils vendaient They were selling/they used to sell/...

elles vendaient They were selling/they used to sell/...


Can you know conjugate the verb 'rendre' = to give back, in all its imperfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


The Pluperfect Tense


To talk about what had happened before something else happened.


This tense follows similar rules to the Perfect Tense.

This time, the auxiliary is in the imperfect tense and the same past participle is used as the one used in the perfect tense.


Let's look as 'jouer' for the example of an '-er' verb...


J'avais joué I had played

Tu avais joué You had played

Il avait joué He had played

Elle avait joué She had played

On avait joué One had played

Nous avions joué We had played

Vous aviez joué You had played

Ils avaient joué They had played

Elles avaient joué They had played


Can you know conjugate the verb 'donner' = to give, in all its pluperfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Let's look as 'finir' for the example of an '-ir' verb...


J'avais fini I had finished

Tu avais fini You had finished

Il avait fini He had finished

Elle avait fini She had finished

On avait fini One had finished

Nous avions fini We had finished

Vous aviez fini You had finished

Ils avaient fini They had finished

Elles avaient fini They had finished


Can you know conjugate the verb 'choisir' = to give, in all its pluperfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Let's use 'vendre' as an example for 're' verbs


J'avais vendu I had sold

Tu avais vendu You had sold

Il avait vendu He had sold

Elle avait vendu She had sold

On avait vendu One had sold

Nous avions vendu We had sold

Vous aviez vendu You had sold

Ils avaient vendu They had sold

Elles avaient vendu They had sold


Can you know conjugate the verb 'rendre' = to give back, in all its pluperfect tense forms? (it follows the regular pattern)


Also remember être verbs and reflexives...

Here the auxiliary is 'être' so it is 'être' in the imperfect in the place of 'avoir' , with the past participle, which also must agree!


Here is an example of the formation of the verb aller: (to use other verbs replace the past participle of aller with that of the relevant verb)


j'étais allé(e) I had gone

tu és allé(e) You had gone

il était allé He had gone

elle était allée She had gone

on était allé[(e)(s)]* One had gone

nous étions allé(e)s We had gone

vous étiez allé(e)(s) You had gone

ils étaient allés They had gone

elles étaient allées They had gone



Could you work out the pluperfect pattern for the verbs 'naître' and 'monter' following the example of 'aller' above?

The Perfect Tense of Reflexive Verbs with être...


All the other 'rules' are the same, just the extra 'reflexive' word is included...


Let's use 'se laver' as the example...


Je m'étais lavé(e) I had washed myself

Tu t'étais lavé(e) You had washed yourself

Il s'était lavé(e) He had washed himself

Elle s'était lavé(e) She had washed herself

On s'était lavé(e) One had washed oneself

Nous nous étions lavé(e)(s) We had washed ourselves

Vous vous étiez lavé(e)(s) You had washed yourself/(yourselves)

Ils s'étaient lavés They had washed themselves

Elles s'étaient lavées They had washed themselves


Could you do the same for 'se relaxer', 'se réunir' and 'se rendre' ? following the example of 'se laver' above...


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The Simple Future Tense

To talk about what is going to happen.


This one is the direct translation of the same tense in English.

You use the verb 'aller' - 'to go' as an auxiliary verb and the verb you are using is in its infinitive form.


Let's use 'jouer' as an example to use any other verb, just replace 'jouer' with the verb you wish to use in its infinitive.


je vais jouer I am going to play

tu vas jouer You are going to play

il va jouer He is going to play

elle va jouer She is going to play

on va jouer One is going to play

nous allons jouer We are going to play

vous allez jouer You are going to play

ils vont jouer They are going to play

elles vont jouer They are going to play


You could use 'donner', 'choisi'r and 'rendre' for any practising here. Although all verbs follow this pattern even 'être' ...


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The Future Tense


To talk about what will happen.


To form this tense you take the infinitive of '-er' and '-ir' verbs; for '-re' verbs you remove the final '-e' and add the appropriate endings.


*See below for exceptions to this rule...


Let's use 'jouer', 'finir', and 'vendre' as examples, to use any other verbs, just replace 'them with the verb you wish to use in its infinitive. Remember for '-re' verbs remove the final '-e' To help remember these endings, they are pretty much the same as avoid in the present tense without any 'av-'...


'jouer'


je jouerai I will play...

tu joueras

il jouera

elle jouera

on jouera

nous jouerons

vous jouerez

ils joueront

elles joueront


Could you put the verb 'donner' into the future tense?


'finir'


je finirai

tu finiras

il finira

elle finira

on finira

nous finirons

vous finirez

ils finiront

elles finiront


Could you put the verb 'choisir' into the future tense?


'vendre'


je vendrai

tu vendras

il vendra

elle vendra

on vendra

nous vendrons

vous vendrez

ils vendront

elles vendront


Could you put the verb 'rendre' into the future tense?


The Conditional Tense


To talk about what could; should; or would happen.

Formed in a very similar way to the future tense. However, the endings are those used for the imperfect tense.


To form this tense you take the infinitive of '-er' and '-ir' verbs; for '-re' verbs you remove the final '-e' and add the appropriate endings.


Let's use 'jouer', 'finir', and 'vendre' as examples, to use any other verbs, just replace 'them with the verb you wish to use in its infinitive. Remember for '-re' verbs remove the final '-e'


je jouerais I would(should/could) play...

tu jouerais

il jouerait

elle jouerait

on jouerait

nous jouerions

vous joueriez

ils joueraient

elles joueraient


Could you put the verb 'donner' into the conditional tense?


'finir'


je finirais

tu finirais

il finirait

elle finirait

on finirait

nous finirions

vous finiriez

ils finiraient

elles finiraient


Could you put the verb 'choisir' into the conditional tense?


'vendre'


je vendrais

tu vendrais

il vendrait

elle vendrait

on vendrait

nous vendrions

vous vendriez

ils vendraient

elles vendraient


Could you put the verb 'rendre' into the conditional tense?


*These verbs form different seems for the future and conditional tenses. The same endings still apply.

  • acquérir acquerr j'acquerrai - I will acquire conquérir, s’enquérir

  • allerirj'irai - I will go

  • avoiraurj'aurai - I will have

  • courir → courr → je courrai → I will run concourir, discourir, parcourir

  • envoyer enverr j'enverrai - I will send

  • êtreserje serai - I will be

  • faireferje ferai - I will do

  • falloirfaudril faudra - (You will have to/We will need/it will be necessary to)

  • pleuvoirpleuvr → il pleuvra - It will rain

  • pouvoirpourrje pourrai - I will be able to

  • devoirdevrje devrai - I will have to

  • savoirsaurje saurai - I will know

  • valoirvaudr → il vaudra (mieux) - It will be better to

  • venirviendrje viendrai - I will come devenir, tenir, obtenir

  • voirverrje verrai - I will see revoir

  • vouloirvoudrje voudrai - I will like/want

The verbs in italics next to those above also form their future stem in the same way as the verb they are listed next to.


Can you put 'être', 'aller', and 'vouloir' into both the future and conditional tenses?


Very advanced...


The past historic tense


The literary tense to talk about what happened. This is not generally used in spoken French. It is used in written literature, poems, songs etc when stories are being told. It is not one that the even the French pick up 'natively'. They also need to be taught it and often have little concept of its various formations.


The past historic forms of many irregular verbs are highly irregular (for example, they can have a vowel change not found elsewhere in the verb's conjugation).


However, the majority of verbs can be recognised in these ways (and it is to recognise it that advanced learners of French need to do:


Beginning with the stem you used for the present tense and the formation of the perfect and imperfect tenses (removing the '-er', '-ir' and '-re' from the infinitive)

  • the past historic endings of a given verb are based on a "theme vowel", generally as follows:

  • -a for -er verbs;

  • -i for regular -ir and -re verbs and some irregular verbs;

  • -u for some irregular verbs, especially those whose past participle ends with a u.

The past historic ending is generally made up of the theme vowel plus the endings -s, -s, -t, -ˆmes, ˆtes, -rent, though with some complications in the case of -er verbs

Putting these together gives the following typical past historic conjugation examples:

'jouer'

Note how in the singular form it is so similar to the future tense (the usual stem plus the endings used in the future tense!!), but in the plural it looks like someone is having a laugh!


je jouai I played

tu jouas you played

il joua he played

elle joua she played

on joua one played

nous jouâmes we played

vous jouâtes you played

ils jouèrent they played

elles jouèrent they played


Can you put the verb 'donner' into the past historic tense?


'finir'

In contrast to the usual rules, in all other tenses, it is the 'ir' and 're' verbs that follow the similar patterns while the 'er' ones have their own ideas...


je finis I finished

tu finis You finished

il finit He finished

elle finit She finished

on finit One finished

nous finîmes We finished

vous finîtes You finished

ils finirent They finished

elles finirent They finished


Can you put the verb 'choisir' into the past historic tense?


vendre


je vendis I sold

tu vendis You sold

il vendit He sold

elle vendit She sold

on vendit One sold

nous vendîmes We sold

vous vendîtes You sold

ils vendirent They sold

elles vendirent They sold


Can you put the verb 'rendre' into the past historic tense?


So as said above, the irregular verbs are very irregular (but the endings are generally recognisable as the past historic endings... )


Here are a few of the most common irregular verbs in this tense (so you can see for yourselves!)


être


je fus I was

tu fus You were

il fut He was

elle fut She was

on fut One was

nous fûmes We were

vous fûtes You were

ils furent They were

elles furent They were


faire

je fis I made/did

tu fis You made/did

il fit He made/did

elle fit She made/did

on fit One made/did

nous fîmes We made/did

vous fîtes You made/did

ils firent They made/did

elles firent They made/did


avoir


j'eus I had

tu eus You had

il eut He had

elle eut She had

on eut One had

nous eûmes We had

vous eûtes You had

ils eurent They had

elles eurent They had


Not really a tense...

The subjunctive mood - quite frankly a nuisance! Lest we forget... < That's an English subjunctive.

This is as it says above, not a tense but a mood!


It is used to describe a feeling, an idea, a sense of uncertainty or doubt. It is often triggered by using set phrases, most often using '... que' in their construction. However, the subjunctive is not always triggered by the use of '... que' so you do not stick the subjunctive after the word 'que' everything you use it!


This is Laura K Lawless' musings on this subject (rather than me reinventing the wheel here) Her post shows ways you can avoid using the 'mood' and there are many native French speakers who avoid it (or ignore it, or even misuse it)


So here's a stab at explaining how it is formed...


All regular '-er', '-ir' and many (but not all) irregular and '-re' verbs follow the same formation pattern...


To form the stem, you take the 3rd person plural form of the verb and remove the final '-ent', '-ont', etc and add these endings: '-e', '-es', 'e', '-ions', '-iez', '-ent'...


So, in quite a few cases the subjunctive form of the verb is not any different to the present tense form you would have used, but of course, not all (many common irregular verbs that do not follow the pattern above)


If you are still with me, let's use the usual suspect verbs - jouer, finer and vendre.


So let's imagine we've used a construction which requires the subjunctive such as 'falloir que' (''il faut que)' - 'It is necessary to' - must... or 'vouloir que'


Jouer - The ils/elles form is 'jouent' remove the '-ent' and you are left with 'jou'...


Que je joue

Que tu joues

Qu'il joue

Qu'elle joue

Qu'on joue

Que nous jouions

Que vous jouiez

Qu'ils jouent

Qu'elles jouent

Can you put the verb 'donner' into the subjunctive?


You will notice I have highlighted the only difference between the subjunctive and the present tense is the addition of an 'I' on the nous and vows forms, which I have highlighted in a different colour.


finir - now, the ils/elles form here is 'finissent'. So by removing the '-ent' you are left with 'finiss-'


Que je finisse

Que tu finisses

Qu'il finisse

Qu'elle finisse

Qu'on finisse

Que nous finissions

Que vous finissiez

Qu'ils finissent

Qu'elles finissent


Can you put the verb 'choisir' into the subjunctive?


So, in this case the difference between the subjunctive and the present form is more apparent. It is the 'they' form that is identical all others are different.


vendre - here the ils/elles form is 'vendent'. Remove the '-ent' and you are left with 'vend-'


Que je vende

Que tu vendes

Qu'il vende

Qu'elle vende

Qu'on vende

Que nous vendions

Que vous vendiez

Qu'ils vendent

Qu'elles vendent


Can you put the verb 'rendre' into the subjunctive?


So, once the difference between the subjunctive and the present form is more apparent. It is the 'they' form that is identical all others are different.


So, what about all the irregulars and what are the trigger phrases?


Ten verbs have irregular stems and can be found here


The sort of expressions that require the subjunctive form the mnemonic PANDO

Preferences, Advice, Needs, Desires, Orders (PANDO)


aimer mieux que - to like better/to prefer that

commander que - to order that

défendre que - to forbid

demander que - to ask (someone to do something)

désirer que - to desire that

donner l’ordre que - to order that

empêcher que* - to prevent (someone from doing something)

éviter que*- to avoid

exiger que - to demand that

il est à souhaiter que - it is to be hoped that

il est capital que - it is crucial that

il est essentiel que - it is essential that

il est impératif que - it is imperative that

il est nécessaire que - it is necessary that

il est temps que - it is time that

il est urgent que - it is urgent that

il faut que - it is necessary that

interdire que - to forbid that

s’opposer que - to oppose that

ordonner que - to order that

permettre que - to permit that

préférer que - to prefer that

proposer que - to propose that

recommander que - to recommend

souhaiter que - to wish that

suggérer que - to suggest that

tenir à ce que - to insist that

vouloir que - to want that


* These two phrases require the use of 'ne' as well... Look here for further explanation already written by Laura K Lawless.


She has also written a lot on how to avoid using the subjunctive!!


In the Céline Dion song, which made it into the UK top ten in the 90s... She uses the phrases: <<Il faut que tu saches>> and <<Je veux que tu saches>> which are subjunctive as they express a wish using the trigger phrases <<falloir que>> and <<vouloir que>>.


This French lady gives her views on it - including many examples (even she admits 'it's VERY complicated')



This guy also explains it quite well - how the subjunctive expresses a mood - ignore his 'double entendre' - It has to be spoken to see the difference in the English as the 'mood' can only be expressed in English by where the emphasis is placed on the statement made!

You might find his explanation clearer...


If you read mine, read Laura K Lawless' version seen both these videos and perhaps found a couple of other explanations you might just 'get it' and then you can spend the rest of your time thinking of how to avoid it... [The subjunctive, used correctly, is one of the things that examiners see as being a very high level language]



This is a pretty exhaustive way of avoiding the subjunctive...

Now in case you are in any doubt, we do have the subjunctive in English and many people have no idea about that... The phrases used are often just said without people knowing why they are constructed that way - "If I were you I'd try to remember this sentence began with a subjunctive!"


If you are interested, this blog is written by for learners of English in English! All about the English subjunctive.


For conjugation of tenses and checking you are right (rather than relying on it for all you verb wrangling needs... This website is pretty good!



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