Basics of French conjugation for beginners: indicative present
If you’re learning French, (and something tells me that’s the case) you may know how important conjugation is.
If you want to build strong foundations in French, you definitely need to understand the basics of conjugation, and that’s perfect, because it’s the goal of this post!
• What are and why are infinitive verb forms important in French.
• What and how do the three French conjugation groups work.
• How to conjugate your first French verbs in the present tense.
• Some examples to train.
What is “l’infinitif du verbe”?
In English, the infinitive of a verb is this same verb preceded by “to”
In French, this is quite different, there is no magic word to indicate the infinitive form of a verb, but there are magic endings!
Yes, if a French verb ends in –ER, –IR, –RE, then it means you’re looking at the infinitive form of this verb.
• “To speak” = “Parler”
As you can see, parl-ER ends in –ER, so this is the infinitive form.
• “To end” = “Finir”
As you can see, fin-IR ends in –IR, so this is the infinitive form.
• “To drive” = “Conduire”
As you can see, condui-RE ends in –RE, so this is the infinitive form.
What are French conjugation groups?
French verbs can be stored in three different groups: the first group, the second group and the third group (I know, those names are not very pioneering, but it’s easy to remember at least…)
• The first group: All verbs ending in -ER, except “Aller” (to go). This group represents around 90% of all French verbs (more than 8000).
• The second group: (Most) verbs ending in -IR. This group contains around 320 verbs. (Some -IR ending verbs are stored in the third group, but we’ll see this later on another post).
• The third group: All the others, -RE, -DRE, -OIR, particular cases, some -IR and “Aller”. This group contains around 360 verbs.
In this article, we’ll focus on the first and second group.
How to conjugate in French?
Conjugating verbs in French can be hard for beginners because different factors are involved:
• The tense.
• The verb’s group.
• The pronoun.
But wait! We can easily draw a pattern to conjugate in French!
I made this little infographic to summarize the process of conjugating a regular verb in French(here,in the indicative present tense).
When the time to conjugate has come:
1) Look at which group your verb belongs to (If it’s a third group verb, it may be an irregular.We’ll see this in other posts and how to deal with those irregulars).
2) Cut the infinitive ending and replace it with the specific ending of the group (depending on the pronoun).
3) You have your brand new conjugated verb, ready for action!
As I say to my French learner friends, practice makes perfect!
Let’s use my previous indications, the infographic, and conjugate some verbs!
First example: “To speak” = “Parler”
1) Hummm… Parler is the infinitive form of the verb… And it ends in –ER! That’s a 1st group verb!
2) Now, I cut this –ER ending to replace it by the specific group endings:
Je parle = I speak
Tu parles = You speak
Il/Elle/On parle = He/She/It speaks
Nous parlons = We speak
Vous parlez = You speak
Ils/Elles parlent = They speak
3) Done! I can easily write “I speak” in French now!
Second example: “To end” = “Finir”
1) Finir is the infinitive form of the verb and it ends in –IR! That’s a 2nd group verb!
2) Now, I cut this –IR ending to replace it by the specific group endings:
Je finis = I end
Tu finis = You end
Il/Elle/On finit = He/She/It ends
Nous finissons = We end
Vous finissez = You end
Ils/Elles finissent = They end
Third example: “To wait” = “Attendre”
1) Attendre is the infinitive form of the verb… And it ends in –DRE! That’s a 3rd group verb! By chance this is not an irregular (we’ll see in other posts how to deal with those irregulars).
2) Now, I cut this –DRE ending to replace it by the specific group endings:
J’attends= I wait
Tu attends = You wait
Il/Elle/On attend = He/She/It waits
Nous attendons = We wait
Vousattendez = You wait
Ils/Elles attendent = They wait
See? French conjugation isn’t that hard! 🙂
What’s next ? How to train ?
That’s good ! Now, you know how basic conjugation works !
You may be wondering “what are the endings of other tenses ?” and it’s a good question! But everything in its own time!
At the moment, I advise you to train yourself concerning those basics conjugations points. The pattern is the same for the other tenses, if you master the basics everything will be easier to learn in the future.
How ? Let me give you some ideas :
• Choose a bunch of French verbs and try to classify them by group, and then conjugate ! You’ll learn new French verbs while training your conjugation skills!
There is some verbs :
trouver (to find) ; agir (to act) ; aimer (to like) ; envahir (to invade) ; entendre (to hear) ; obéir (to obey) ; donner (to give) ; définir (to define) ; demander (to ask for) ; appeler (to call)
When it’s done, to have corrections, you can enter French verbs on: http://www.conjugaison.com/
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section! 😀