Beginners French: The Tenses: -RE verbs

The French language has something known as a 'conjugation system'. This means that in order for you to say "I eat" (je mange) and "you eat" (tu manges) you have to change the verb ending of the verb that you used (manger = to eat). In this case, it was the addition of an extra "s" onto "mange" in "tu manges." As you can see, no such change is made in English (I eat, you eat), but similarly, a change is seen in third person "he/she/it eats" in the present tense.

Changes in the verb endings must be made when using verbs with the pronouns: "I" "you" "he/she/it" "we" "you (plural)" and "they".

But don't worry! There are simple rules that unify all of the verb endings, and after remembering these (and a few irregular endings) you will have a firm grasp of French grammar! Remember also that there there are different verb endings for each tense, so a different one for past, present, and future tenses.

Interesting Fact: The English language also used to have a conjugation system (a declension system) like the other European languages, but lost it around 1550 because it was easier that way! Lucky French students!

-re verbs

-RE verbs are verbs that end in 're' instead of anything else. A few examples include:

  • vendre - to sell
  • attendre - to wait
  • perdre - to lose

Conjugating!
The verb "vendre" is taken as an example in the table below. If you wish to conjugate other "-re" verbs, just add the endings to the stem (the verb without the "-re") of the verb and add the appropriate endings. Try and memorise all of the verb endings because they will be used in every single french sentence you hear!

For an example of conjugation: "she sells" is "elle vend" and "they will lose" is "ils perdront".

Future and Conditional Tense
For the future and conditional tense, it is necessary to use the infinitive of the verb before adding on the necessary endings (see below). The infinite form is the one including the "-re" and is the form of the verb you would see in a dictionary.

Pronouns:
je =
"I"
tu = "you"
il/elle/on = "he/she/it"
Nous =
"we"
vous =
"you (plural)"
Ils/elles = "they (masculine)/they (feminine)".

For -RE verbs: the endings for each tense go as follows:

  • Present: (stem +) "s, s, -, ons, ez, ent"
  • Imperfect: (stem +) "ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient"
  • Future Simple: (infinitive +) "rai, ras, ra, rons, rez, ront" (NOTE: it is important to note that -re verbs are the only ones that not only add "ai, as, a, ons, ez, ont" but also keep the verbs 'r')
  • Conditional: (infinitive +) "rais, rais, rait, rions, riez, raient"

Note: Imperfect and conditional share the same endings, but conditional uses the endings on top of the infinitive form of the verb whereas imperfectuses the stem.


RE verb endings for the verb 'vendre' - to sell

Pronoun
Present Tense
Future (simple) Tense
Past (passé composé)
Imperfect Tense
Conditional Tense
je
vends
vendrai
ai vendu
vendais
vendrais
tu
vends
vendras
as vendu
vendais
vendrais
il/elle/on
vend
vendra
a vendu
vendait
vendrait
nous
vendons
vendrons
avons vendu
vendions
vendrions
vous
vendez
vendrez
avez vendu
vendiez
vendriez
ils/elles
vendent
vendront
ont vendu
vendaient
vendraient

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