ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Learning French Verbs

Updated on January 13, 2013
The Arc de Triomph, an iconic symbol of France
The Arc de Triomph, an iconic symbol of France | Source

Learners of foreign languages will often cite their greatest difficulty, or at least their most frustrating one, as the conjugation of verbs, due to the vast number of changes and transformations that occur throughout the tenses and that need to be committed to memory. French is no exception to this tedium, containing five verb forms (-ER, -IR, -RE, stem-changing and irregular) that need to be learned and constantly revised before fluency can be achieved. Verbs are important for all elements of speech, including the formation of questions, and are therefore of particular importance to even those interested in only learning a language to a rudimentary level, perhaps for purposes of travel. Thankfully, regular -ER, -IR, and -RE verbs follow a pattern that greatly simplifies the process of their conjugation, and this is the method that I intend on exploring:

Some Definitions

Verb: A verb is, quite simply, a doing-word, or anything that describes an action. When you run, jump, dance, skip, hop, crawl and sing you are performing actions, and therefore each of these words, along with countless others, are verbs.

Pronouns: This is a word that refers to the participant in a conversation, for example: I or you. Verb conjugation in French involves five pronouns:

Je - I

Tu – You (informal/singular)

Il/Elle – He/She

Nous - We

Vous –You (formal/plural)

Ils/Elles - They

NB: The vous form should be used on formal occasions and/or when speaking to members of authority, to those older and who therefore require respect, and to strangers or acquaintances. Similarly, when referring to a group of people, elles can only be used if no males are present.

Stem and ending: French verbs are broken up into stems and endings and it is through this division that a pattern of conjugation can be devised. The stem encompasses all letters that precede the endings of either -ER, -IR or -RE, depending on which category of verb is being studied. Looking at the extremely common regular -ER verb of Parler (To Speak), we can separate the infinitive ending, -ER, from the stem, parl. When conjugating regular verbs in the present tense, you always keep the stem, replacing the ending with different letters that subscribe to a pattern.

The regular -ER verb pattern

The majority of French verbs fall into this category. In fact, of all -ER verbs, only one (aller) is truly irregular, and a mere handful of others are stem-changing or involve spelling changes. The regularity of most -ER verbs render them simple in comparison to those of other categories, and are a good place for French students to start.

When conjugated, the endings of regular -ER verbs follow the pattern of:

Therefore, when this rule is applied to the verb parler, its conjugation should appear as follows:
Je Parle
Tu Parles
Il/Elle Parle
Nous Parlons
Vous Parlez
Ils/Elles Parlent

Notice how the ending, -ER, has been removed and replaced with the appropriate endings that conform to the pattern, whilst the stem, parl, has been retained.

The verb chanter (to sing) can provide another example of this form of conjugation:
Je Chante (I sing)
Tu Chantes (You sing)
Il/Elle Chante (He/She sings)
Nous Chantons (We sing)
Vous Chantez (You sing)
Ils/Elles Chantent (They sing)

The Louvre, Paris.
The Louvre, Paris. | Source

The Regular -IR and -RE Patterns

Regular –IR and –RE verbs follow the same method, but use different endings. The endings of regular –IR verbs follow the system of:

Whilst the endings of regular –RE verbs are:

Therefore, the regular -IR verb, finir (to finish), should become:
Je Finis
Tu Finis
Il/Elle Finit
Nous Finissons
Vous Finissez
Ils/Elles Finissent

And the regular -RE verb, perdre (to lose), should look like:
Je Perds
Tu Perds
Il/Elle Perd
Nous Perdons
Vous Perdez
Ils/Elles Perdent

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower | Source

Verbs ending in –IR or –RE are often irregular, and therefore need to be memorised and learned through constant reiteration. Some common regular –IR and –RE verbs that conform to the above patterns include:

  • Entendre (to hear)

  • Rendre (to return)
  • Descendre (to go down)

  • Attendre (to wait)

  • Mordre (to bite)

  • Punir (to punish)

  • Réfléchir (to reflect)

  • Obéir (to obey)

  • Jouir (to enjoy)

  • Choisir (to choose)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you so much! This really helped me understand verbs!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)