The present tense of French
When conjugating a French verb, the root of the verb takes several endings (suffixes) in the various personal forms. However, English verbs do not usually take endings except for the -s ending in the third person singular of the Present tense (e.g. he goes, he reads, she writes, it makes). In French all the personal forms take a specific ending (e.g. je travaille – I work, tu travailles – you work, nous travaillons – we work).
The infinitive form usually ends in -er, -re or -ir in French, which is generally identical to the English “to” preposition: to make – faire; to sleep – dormir; to go – aller; to give – donner.
When conjugating a French verb the endings are added to the root of the verb. The root can be obtained by leaving the -er, -re or -ir ending off of the infinitive. E.g.: donn-er – je donne, tu donnes, il donne.
The personal pronouns (je, tu, il, elle; nous, vous, ils, elles – like English I, you, he, she, it; we, you, they) are always put next to the verb.
Present Tense (Présent)
Verbs with the infinitive -er take the following endings:
As can be seen the 1st and the 3rd person singular forms are the same in the case of the regular verbs (je travaille, il travaille).
Usage of the present tense (Présent):
It can describe both repeated actions around the present and actions that are in progress in the time of speaking. It doesn’t matter if the action takes a lot of time or happens just in a moment. It doesn’t matter either if the action began in the past, nor how long or since when it has been in progress, Präsens is used to describe all of these:
Je me lève à 7 heures chaque jour.
(I get up at 7 o’clock every day.)
Je travaille maintenant.
(I am working at the moment.)
Je travaille 5 heures chaque jour.
(I work 5 hours every day.)
Je travaille depuis deux heures.
(I have been working for two hours.)
J’habite ici depuis trois mois.
(I have lived here for three months.)
Présent can express future, too, if there is an adverb in the sentence that refers to the future (e.g. demain– tomorrow, la semaine prochaine – next week):
Je pars pour Paris la semaine prochaine.
(I will go to Paris next week.)
So, the French Présent can express the English Present simple, Present continuous, Present perfect and Present perfect continuous as well as the Future tense. However, if these tenses refer to a past event, they cannot be translated into French using Présent, e.g.: “Somebody has been smoking here. Everything smells of smoke.” “Has been smoking” refers to a past event (which, by the way, has an effect in the present) so it cannot be expressed in French by the Présent.
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