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Conjugate French Verbs

Conjugate French Verbs

Conjugates can get confusing. This article provides an easy guide for French verb conjugates.
Komal Bakhru
Learning French conjugation can get difficult. Start with the most elementary of all the verbs, être  and avoir. Once you get the hang of these two, French conjugates will be so much easier.
Memorizing Pronouns
Pronouns are the first step to learning conjugation. Although verbs are an important aspect of the language, you cannot get there without learning about the pronouns first.
Type Singular Plural
1st person je nous
2nd person tu vous
3rd person (m) il ils
3rd person (f) elle elles
Types of Verbs
There are two basic categories, regular and irregular verbs. Each of these is further categorized into 'er', 'ir', and 're' verbs. While conjugating regular verbs is quite simple, it is the irregular ones that could occasionally get a little confusing. This is because regular verbs generally follow a specific pattern for conjugation, whereas irregulars do not. The best way to learn is by starting with the important ones, i.e. Être and Avoir.
Être and Avoir
Être and avoir are two of the most important irregular verbs in French. They form the base for a lot of other grammatical aspects of the language.

Pronoun Conjugation (ÊTRE) Conjugation (AVOIR)
je suis ai
tu es as
il/elle est a
*on est a
nous sommes avons
vous êtes avez
ils/elles sont ont

*'On' is generally used for the third person (neutral). Its English equivalent would be the term 'one'.
Regular 'ER' Verbs
In order to simplify this process, we could use one of the most common examples of a regular 'er' verb, Parler (to speak). Most verbs that belong to this category have the same endings. Begin with learning the following: 'e' for je, 'es' for tu, 'e' for il/elle, 'ons' for nous, 'ez' for vous, 'ent' for ils/elles. Once you know these, the next step is to remember to drop the ER from the infinitive, and add the given endings to their respective pronouns. So your conjugation for parler should be like:
  • Je parle
  • Tu parles
  • Il/Elle parle
  • Nous parlons
  • Vous parlez
  • Ils/Elles parlent
Regular 'IR' Verbs
The rules do not really change here. The only things that change are the endings. The conjugation for Finir (to finish) should be like:
  • Je finis
  • Tu finis
  • Il/Elle finit
  • Nous finissons
  • Vous finissez
  • Ils/Elles finissent
Regular 'RE' Verbs
The endings for these verbs are: s, s, --, ons, ez, ent. As an example, the conjugations for the verb Vendre (to sell) are:
  • Je vends
  • Tu vends
  • Il/Elle vend
  • Nous vendons
  • Vous vendez
  • Ils/Elles vendent
Passé Composé
Every verb must be paired with either être or avoir, the verbs which act as the auxiliary verbs. An easy way to remember is to keep in mind 2 to 15 verbs and their variants that are conjugated with être. Those along with all reflexive verbs are supported by être. Apart from that, every verb works with avoir.
Past Participles
While past participles have to agree with the subject (personal pronoun, etc.) when used with être, there are no such rules for those used with avoir.
Past Participle for 'ER' Verbs: Drop the 'e' and replace it with 'é'. E.g. Parler: j'ai parlé, but for 'tomber': elle est tombée.
Note the extra 'e' as it is being used for feminine.
Past Participle for 'IR' Verbs: Simply drop the 'r'. E.g. Finir:j'ai fini, but 'partir': elles sont parties.
Note the extra 'es' as it is being used for feminine plural.
Past Participle for 'RE' Verbs: Drop the 're' and add a 'u'. E.g. Vendre: j'ai vendu, whereas 'descendre' is: nous sommes descendus.
Note the 's' as it is being used for plural.
Once you're done with these, you could even try your luck with other phrases, greetings, etc.