Frenchness

May 17, 2024

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Present tense in French

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Mastering the present tense in French is crucial for effective communication. In this guide, you'll learn the essential rules and conjugations needed to use the present tense confidently. From regular verb endings to irregular verb forms, we've got you covered with clear explanations and practical examples. Start mastering the French present tense today and boost your language skills!

Let’s conjugate and know more about the present tense in French! I must be honest with you: French conjugation is not easy, and you will probably struggle with those endings and those exceptions. But, this is part of learning a language: Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes a bit less, but you eventually will have to go through tough rules/times before being able to master this beautiful language. If you need motivation before reading this article, check this article 🙂

Sorry for this creepy introduction… especially since today, we will learn about the present tense in French, and it is not that bad!

What is the present tense in French?

In French, the present tense is the action that is taking place right now, without any notion of progressive action or not. So be relieved, we actually have only one present tense. To express the continuous notion, we use an expression.

I am eating an apple Je suis en train de manger une pomme.

Yet, the sentence “Je mange une pomme” is also perfectly acceptable in this situation. If you really want to express the continuous action, this is how you need to phrase it:

Subject + être (present tense) + en train de + infinitive form of the verb + object.

Let’s get started with the present tense in French now!

3 Groups of verbs

In French, we need to distinguish 3 group of verbs:

  • 1st group: Verbs ending in -er (infinitive form)
  • 2nd group: Verbs ending in -ir (only the verbs that take the -issant ending when gerund form -ing mode)
  • 3rd group: All of the other verbs! Verbs ending in -re, those that ends in -ir but no -issant gerund-, …

If you want to know how to conjugate to be (être) and to have (avoir), please click here.

First Group

The first group is the easy peasy group! If you read the previous articles of my blog, you probably already know some French first group verbs. Do you remember them? Appeler (to call) / habiter (to live). Let’s learn two more today:

Manger (to eat) Jouer (to play)
Je mange Je joue
Tu manges Tu joues
Il mange Il joue
Elle mange Elle joue
On mange On joue
Nous mangeons Nous jouons
Vous mangez Vous jouez
Ils mangent Ils jouent
Elles mangent Elles jouent

The endings are something you need to learn by heart, and once it’s known and understood, you won’t even think about it anymore. Did you notice something on this above table? There is a blue letter. Found it?

Prononciation rule

Nous mangeons” is a bit particular:

The letter “g” is pronounced /j/ when in front of the vowels e, i, y and /g/ when in front of the vowels a, o, u.
So when we want it to be pronounced /j/ despite the fact that it is in front of the vowels a, o, u, we cheat a little bit and we add the letter “e” (which is muted when we pronounce it).
On the contrary, when we want to pronounce it /g/ when in front of e, i, y, we add the letter “u” (that is also muted), just like in the word “une bague” (a ring), for instance.

Exception: Aller (to go)

Even though the verb “aller” ends with -er, it is an exception and has its own conjugation:

Aller (to go)
Je vais
Tu vas
Il va
Elle va
On va
Nous allons
Vous allez
Ils vont
Elles vont

Second group

The second group of verbs is made of verbs ending in -ir with a gerund form in -issant (-ing mode in English). Let’s learn the present tense endings with two new verbs:

Finir (to finish) Choisir (to choose)
Je finis Je choisis
Tu finis Tu choisis
Il finit Il choisit
Elle finit Elle choisit
On finit On choisit
Nous finissons Nous choisissons
Vous finissez Vous choisissez
Ils finissent Ils choisissent
Elles finissent Elles choisissent

Third Group

Which verbs belong to the third group?

  • Verbs ending in -re (Infinitive form)
  • Verbs ending in -ir (Infinitive form but not in -issant when gerund mode (-ing mode))
  • The verb “aller” is considered as a verb belonging to the 3rd group (see conjugation above)

Let’s study the third group present tense endings with three new verbs :

Dire (to say) Partir (to leave) Venir (to come)
Je dis Je pars Je viens
Tu dis Tu pars Tu viens
Il dit Il part Il vient
Elle dit Elle part Elle vient
On dit On part On vient
Nous disons Nous partons Nous venons
Vous dites Vous partez Vous venez
Ils disent Ils partent Ils viennent
Elles disent Elles partent Elles viennent

As you can observe, the forms can be different, so once again, I really encourage you to learn it by heart, so that you don’t forget about it, and let’s face it, just guessing it won’t happen unfortunately.

I hope that my explanations made the present tense in French clearer. If you have any questions or comments, please comment this article and I will be glad to help 🙂