A-level French/Printable version

A-level French

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A verb is a word used to describe something that happened, such as an action or state of being.



The infinite is a verb without a subject or tense. In English, it is usually "to _____". In French, all infinitives end in -er, -ir, or -re.

  • parler (to talk)
  • finir (to finish)
  • entendre (to hear)

Most verbs are -er verbs. Many verbs that end in -er end in -ate in English (for example, the verb to donate is "donner"). Many verbs that end in -ir end in -ish in English (for example, the verb finir means to finish).

The infinitive is used in certain phrases in both English and French.

Conjugating Verbs


To conjugate a verb means to change it so it can be used with a particular tense and subject. In French, most verbs are conjugated by taking off the -er, -ir, and -re and adding certain endings depending on the tense. However, some verbs do not work like and are irregular verbs.

Common irregular verbs


Here are twenty verbs that are used a lot, but are not formed like regular -er, -ir, or -re verbs:

  • aller (to go)
  • avoir (to have)
  • boire (to drink)
  • connaître (to know)
  • courir (to run)
  • devoir (to have to)
  • dire (to say, to tell)
  • dormir (to sleep)
  • écrire (to write)
  • être (to be)
  • faire (to do, to make)
  • lire (to read)
  • mentir (to lie)
  • mettre (to put, to turn on)
  • mourir (to die)
  • pouvoir (to be able to, can, may)
  • prendre (to take)
  • recevoir (to receive)
  • savoir (to know)
  • venir (to come)
  • voir (to see)
  • vouloir (to want, to wish)


The present tense is used to say something that is going on right now Examples: I walk, You talk, he eats In French, the present is also used to say "I am ____ing" and "I do _____"

-Er verbs


This is how you write the present for -er verbs. You take off the -er and add certain endings:

Infinitive parler (to talk) donner (to give) arriver (to arrive)
Stem parl- donn- arriv-
Je (I) Je parle Je donne J'arrive
Tu (You) Tu parles Tu donnes Tu arrives
Il/Elle/On (He/She/One) Il parle Elle donne On arrive
Nous (We) Nous parlons Nous donnons Nous arrivons
Vous (You, formal or pl.) Vous parlez Vous donnez Vous arrivez
Ils/Elles (They) Ils parlent Elles donnent Ils arrivent

Note that if the verb starts with a vowel sound, je is changed to j' (Example: I arrive=J'arrive). Also, tu and vous both mean you. Vous is used with multiple people, or as a formality. Tu is used informally, like with your friends.

-Er verbs that change a little


In order to keep the same sound throughout all tenses and subjects, some -er verbs change a little. For example, verbs that end in -ger (like manger, to eat and voyager to travel), add an "e" in the nous form". Verbs that end in -cer (like commencer, to begin and lancer to launch) are almost the same, except they add a cedilla on the c instead of an extra e.

manger commencer
Je mange Je commence
Tu manges Tu commences
Il mange Elle commence
Nous mangeons Nous commençons
Vous mangez Vous commencez
Ils mangent Elles commencent

Verbs that end in -yer, such as payer (to pay) and employer (to employ), change the -y to -i in some conjugations

payer employer
Je paie J'emploie
Tu paies Tu emploies
Il paie Elle emploie
Nous payons Nous employons
Vous payez Vous employez
Ils paient Elles emploient

Some verbs that have an e or é in the middle have special rules. Verbs like acheter (to buy) or espérer (to hope), change the e or é to an è in some conjugations.

acheter espérer
J'achète J'espère
Tu achètes Tu espères
Il achète Elle espère
Nous achetons Nous espérons
Vous payez Vous espérez
Ils achètent Elles espèrent

Other verbs, like appeler (to call) and jeter (to throw), double a letter.

appeler jeter
J'appelle Je jette
Tu appelles Tu jettes
Il appelle Elle jette
Nous appelons Nous jetons
Vous appelez Vous jetez
Ils appellent Elles jettent

-Ir and -Re verbs


Here are the tables for -ir and -re verbs.

finir (to finish) vendre (to sell)
Je finis Je vends
Tu finis Tu vends
Il finit Elle vend
Nous finissons Nous vendons
Vous finissez Vous vendez
Ils finissent Elles vendent

Note that some of the -ir verb forms have an "-iss" in them, and one of the -re verb forms has no ending.

Irregular verbs


Most verbs are regular. Some commonly-used ones are not and have to be learned by heart. Here are some commonly-used irregular verbs in the present tense.

aller (to go) je vais
tu vas
il va
nous allons
vous allez
ils vont
avoir (to have) j'ai
tu as
il a
nous avons
vous avez
ils ont
boire (to drink) je bois
tu bois
il boit
nous buvons
vous buvez
ils boivent
connaître (to know) je connais
tu connais
il connaît
nous connaissons
vous connaissez
ils connaissent
courir (to run) je cours
tu cours
il court
nous courons
vous courz
ils courent
devoir (to have to, "must") je dois
tu dois
il doit
nous devons
vous devez
ils doivent
dire (to say, to tell) je dis
tu dis
il dit
nous disons
vous dites
ils disent
dormir (to sleep) je dors
tu dors
il dort
nous dormons
vous dormez
ils dorment
écrire (to write) j'écris
tu écris
il écrit
nous écrivons
vous écrivez
ils écrivent
être (to be) je suis
tu es
il est
nous sommes
vous êtes
ils sont
faire (to do, to make) je fais
tu fais
il fait
nous faisons
vous faites
ils font
lire (to read) je lis
tu lis
il lit
nous lisons
vous lisez
ils lisent
mentir (to lie) je mens
tu mens
il ment
nous mentons
vous mentez
ils mentent
mettre (to put, to turn on) je mets
tu mets
il met
nous mettons
vous mettez
ils mettent
mourir (to die) je meurs
tu meurs
il meurt
nous mourons
vous mourez
ils meurent
pouvoir (to be able to, "can", "may") je peux
tu peux
il peut
nous pouvons
vous pouvez
ils peuvent
prendre (to take) je prends
tu prends
il prend
nous prenons
vous prenez
ils prennent
recevoir (to receive) je reçois
tu reçois
il reçoit
nous recevons
vous recevez
ils reçoivent
savoir (to know) je sais
tu sais
il sait
nous savons
vous savez
ils saven
venir (to come) je viens
tu viens
il vient
nous venons
vous venez
ils viennent
voir (to see) je vois
tu vois
il voit
nous voyons
vous voyez
ils voient
vouloir (to want, to wish) je veux
tu veux
il veut
nous voulons
vous voulez
ils veulent

Present Participle


The present participle is the form of the verb that ends in -ing. In English, it usually is used with a form of "to be", such as "I am sneezing" and "They were going". In French, they don't use the present participle that way. Instead, they use the present or the imperfect. The only time they use the present is when somebody is doing something while doing something else.

  • Example: I watch TV while eating
  • Becomes: Je regarde la télé en mangeant

The present participle is formed with the "nous" form of the present tense with the -ons replaced with a -ant

Verb Donner Finir Vendre Manger
Nous form donnons finissons vendons mangeons
Minus -ons donn- finiss- vend- mange-
Pres. Part. donnant finissant vendant mangeant

Most irregular verbs follow this form

  • faire: faisant
  • boire: buvant
  • écrire: écrivant

But there are three exceptions:

  • avoir: ayant
  • être: étant
  • savoir: sachant


The passé composé is the most common way to talk in the past tense in French.

When to use the passé composé


Être and Avoir

14 être verbs
aller (to go) partir (to leave)
arriver (to arrive) passer (to pass)
descendre (to descend/ to go downstairs) rester (to stay)
entrer (to enter) retourner (to return)
monter (to climb) sortir (to go out)
mourir (to die) tomber (to fall)
naître (to be born) venir (to come)
To create the passé compose you need to conjugate the verbs être or avoir. Être (to be) Avoir (to have) Most verbs are conjugated with avoir, however, there are 14 common verbs that are conjugated with être.

You may have noticed that many of the 14 être verbs have to do with movement. Except naître (to be born) mourir (to die) and rester (to stay) these verbs are motion verbs. That doesn't mean however that all motion verbs use être in the passé composé. For instance, courir (to run) is conjugated with avoir.

The reason these verbs are être verbs is because they are intransitive, that is they don't have a direct object.

Examples of Intransitive Verbs (Etre verbs):

  • He stayed two hours after the party.
  • The leaf fell from the tree.
  • The children went to school in the morning.

Examples of Transitive Verbs (Avoir verbs):

(The verb is in bold and its object is in italics)

  • She picked up her purse.
  • The boy kicked the soccer ball.
  • Mother is making dinner tonight.
Conjugation of être (to be) Conjugation of avoir (to have)
Je suis Nous sommes J'ai Nous avons
Tu es Vous êtes Tu as Vous avez
Il/Elle/On est Ils/Elles sont Il/Elle/On a Ils/Elles ont

How to make the passé composé

Subject + Conjugation of être/avoir + past participle of the verb (to have) English translation
Tu as lu You have read
Nous avons mangé We ate/We have eaten
Il est allé He went

As you can see from the above table to form the passé composé you need to:

  1. Conjugate avoir or être
  2. change the verb to the past participle

In the next sections you will be able to see examples of the passé composé with avoir and être, learn how to form the past participle in regular verbs, and learn the past participle in the most common irregular verbs.

Avoir passé composé examples

  • Ils ont mangé. They have eaten.
  • J'ai dancé. I danced.
  • Il a vu un chat. He saw a cat.
  • Elle a vendu sa voiture. She sold her car.

Être passé composé examples

  • Je suis allé à la bibliothèque. I went to the library.
  • Ils sont venus après l'école. They came home after school.
  • La feuille est tombé de l'arbre. The leaf fell from the tree.
  • Il est resté à l'école à jouer au basket. He stayed after school to play basketball.

Forming the Past Participle


Regular ER Verbs

To form a past participle of –er verbs, drop the –er of the infinitives and add an é
Verb Drop ER Add É Past Participle English
manger mang - er mang + é mangé to eat
dancer danc - er danc + é dancé to dance
payer pay - er pay + é payé to pay

Regular IR Verbs

To form a past participle of –ir verbs, drop the –ir of the infinitives and add an i
Verb Drop IR Add I Past Participle English
finir fin - ir fin + i fini to finish
réussir réuss - ir réuss + i réussi to succeed
dormir dorm - ir dorm + i dormi to sleep

Regular RE Verbs

To form a past participle of –re verbs, drop the –re of the infinitives and add an u
Verb Drop RE Add U Past Participle English
perdre perd - re perd + u perdu to lose
vendre vend - re vend + u vendu to sell
répondre répond - re répond + u répondu to answer

Irregular Verbs


This is a list of some of the most common irregualr verbs and their past participles.

Verb Past Participle Verb Past Participle
avoir eu (had) boire bu (drank)
conduire conduit (driven, drove) connaître connu (known, knew)
courir couru (ran) croire cru (believed)
devoir dû (had to, owed) dire dit (said, told)
écrire écrit (written, wrote) être été (been, was)
faire fait (made, done, did) falloir fallu (had to, should, was necessary)
lire lu (read) mettre mis (put)
mourir mort (died) naître né (born)
ouvrir ouvert (opened) pleuvoir plu (rained)
pouvoir pu (was able to) prendre pris (took)
recevoir reçu (received) savoir su (knew)
venir venu (came) vivre vécu (lived)
voir vu (saw) vouloir voulu (wanted)


The French imperfect tense (l'imparfait) is a past tense. It is used in the following situations:

Use of the imperfect

  • Progressive actions: In English, we would convey these ideas with the form "I was __ing", "You were __ing", etc. In French, they use the imperfect.
  • Stuff that you used to do:

Forming the imperfect


The imperfect tense is formed with the "nous" form of the present tense with the -ons replaced with the imperfect endings.

Verb Donner Finir Vendre Manger Endings
Nous form donnons finissons vendons mangeons
Minus -ons donn- finiss- vend- mange-
Je donnais finissais vendais mangeais -ais
Tu donnais finissais vendais mangeais -ais
Il/Elle/On donnait finissait vendait mangeait -ait
Nous donnions finissions vendions mangions -ions
Vous donniez finissiez vendiez mangiez -iez
Ils/Elles donnaient finissaient vendaient mangeaient -aient

Note that the verb manger (and other verbs that end in -ger) have an extra e in the -je, -tu, -il, and -ils tenses, but not in the nous or vous tenses. With verbs like commencer that end in -cer, a cedilla is used in those four forms in place of the extra e.

Irregular verbs


The imperfect of irregular verbs is formed much as they would be with regular verbs, by removing the -ons and adding the imperfect endings.

Verb Nous Form Imperfect je Imperfect nous
avoir avons avais avions
boire buvons buvais buvions
conduire conduisons conduisais conduisions
connaître connaissons connaissais connaissions
courir courons courais courions
croire croyons croyais croyions
devoir devons devais devions
dire disons disais disions
écrire écrivons écrivais écrivons
faire faisons faisais faisions
falloir none il fallait none
lire lisons lisais lisions
mettre mettons mettais mettions
mourir mourons mourais mourions
naître naissons naissais naissions
ouvrir ouvrons ouvrais ouvrions
pleuvoir none il pleuvait none
pouvoir pouvons pouvais pouvions
prendre prenons prenais prenions
recevoir recevons recevais recevions
savoir savons savais savions
venir venons venais venions
vivre vivons vivais vivions
voir voyons voyais voyions
vouloir voulons voulais voulions

The nous form of the verb être does not end in -ons, so it is irregular in the imperfect tense.

Tu étais
Il était
Nous étions
Vous étiez
Ils étaient

Note that this is the same form as the past participle étant


The simple Future


The simple future is formed by adding the endings (-ai, -as, -a, -ons, -ez, -ont) to the infinitive form of a verb. If the infinitive verb ends in -e, drop the final -e before adding the appropriate ending. The example will illustrate the translation of simple future in English: Je parlerai = I will talk/speak.

Simple future examples
Parler Vendre Finir
Je parlerai vendrai finirai
Tu parleras vendras finiras
Il/Elle parlera vendra finira
Nous parlerons vendrons Finirons
Vous parlerez vendrez finirez
Ils/ Elles parleront vendront finiront

See also