Verbs

Tutorial of everything in connection with the verb.

Conjugation – Indicatif Présent

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-erje 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:

singular:
   -e
   -es
   -e

plural:
   -ons
   -ez
   -ent

examples:

 

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).

 

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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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Conjugation – Indicatif – Compound Past (Passé composé)

Avoir or être is conjugated in the present tense, and the past participle (participe passé) of the main verb comes after:

  avoir / être            +          participe passé
    conjugated in the present tense

Avoir is used with the verbs that can have a direct object (e.g. acheter (quelque chose) – buy (something); voir (quelque chose) – see (something)). Verbs that cannot have a direct object are accompanied either by avoir or by être, it has to be learnt for each verb. At any rate, verbs without a direct object that express movement (e.g. aller - go, venir - come) or change of state are used with être.

 acheter (to buy)              dormir (to sleep)

j’ai acheté                  j’ai dormi
tu as acheté                 tu as dormi
il a acheté                  il a dormi
nous avons acheté            nous avons dormi
vous avez acheté             vous avez dormi
ils ont acheté               ils ont dormi

Using être the past participle agrees with the subject in number and person – though it cannot usually be heard, it usually  applies only the written language:

 aller (to go)                 venir (to come)

je suis allé(e)              je suis venu(e)
tu es allé(e)                tu es venu(e)
il est allé                  il est venu
elle est allée               elle est venue
nous sommes allé(e)s         nous sommes venu(e)s

vous êtes allé(e)s           vous êtes venu(e)s
ils sont allés               ils sont venus
elles sont allées            elles sont venues

The reflexive verbs are always conjugated with être:

   se laver (to wash [oneself])

je me suis lavé(e)
tu t’es lavé(e)
il s’est lavé
elle s’est lavée

nous nous sommes lavé(e)s
vous vous êtes lavé(e)s
ils se sont lavés
elles se sont lavées

If there is a direct object in the sentence and it precedes the participe passé, then the participe passé has to agree with the direct object:

Marie est ici. Je l’ai vue.
Tu as beaucoup de livres. Je les ai vus.
Marie et Nicole sont ici. Je les ai vues.

BUT: J’ai vu les livres. J’ai vu Marie et Nicole.

Note that passé composé can express not only the same meaning as the English present perfect (though the formation is very similar) but also the meaning of the simple past and several English tenses. Thus, j’ai appris can mean not only that “I have learnt” but also “I learnt”, “I had been learning” and so on.