How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Asseoir' ( 'to Seat Someone')

The pronominal form, 's'asseoir,' means 'to sit down'

The ushers had seated the guests. Then they rose for the ceremony.
The ushers had seated the guests. Then they rose for the ceremony. Lambert/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Asseoir has several meanings: "to seat someone," "to set down," "to help or make someone sit up or down," "to help someone stand his ground" (in an argument), "to base," "to establish." It is an irregular -ir verb, and all irregular verbs ending in -seoir are conjugated the same way; they take avoir as their auxiliary verb. Even more common is the pronominal s'asseoir, which means "to sit down" or "take a seat." In this case, it requireds être as the auxiliary verb.

S'asseoir is conjugated exactly the same as asseoir.

Asseoir is one of those words that changed spelling in the 1990 French language reform that changed spellings to better reflect pronunciation. Asseoir became assoir, paier became payer, oignon became ognon, and so on. The former spellings were called old; the new spellings were called modernized. The problem is that the French haven't adopted the new changes wholeheartedly because they sound bizarre and, in some cases, archaic.

Two Complete Sets of Conjugations

This left asseoir with two complete sets of conjugations: the old and the modernized. But the first and second person plural (nous assoyons and vous assoyez in the present tense) of the modernized form seem so strange that many French speakers in France will do anything to avoid using them.

The result is a hybrid conjugation that sounds better to the French ear: the old asseyez-vous and assied-toi for commands, and for statements and questions, a combination of the old and modern spellings that goes like this: je assois, tu assois, on assoit, ils assoient, but nous asseyons, vous asseyez.

These forms are also used for the pronominal s'asseoir. 

Anything to Avoid 'Nous Assoyons' and 'Vous Assoyez'

Here's an example of a speaker automatically switching from one form to the other: Je m'assois sur la chaise. Si vous vous asseyez sur le canapé, ne mettez pas vos pieds dessus! ("If you sit on the sofa, don't put your feet on it.")

The tables at the bottom of the page show both forms. Strictly speaking, both are correct conjugations of asseoir. Most French speakers will use either one or both forms, and the preference is often driven by regional differences. For instance, Parisians will use a hybrid conjugation as we've described above, while the Québecois prefer to stick with the modern form. By and large, though, the modern form is less frequently used than the old form.

Expressions and Examples With 'Asseoir'

  • Il a assis sa position avec des arguments solides. > He based his position on solid arguments.
  • J'ai assis le bébé sur la chaise pour le repas. > I sat the baby on the chair for the meal.
  • asseoir l'impôt sur... > to base the tax on...
  • asseoir son autorité > to impose / establish one's authority 
  • Merci de vous asseoir. > Please have a seat.
  • Asseoir quelque chose sur > to base something on
  • Asseoir quelqu'un sur le trône [le couronner] > to put somebody on the throne
  • être assis : J'étais assise sur un tabouret. > I was sitting on a stool.
  • Nous étions assis au premier rang. > We were seated in the first row.
  • Étes-vous bien assis ? > Are you sitting comfortably ?
  • Je préfère être assise pour repasser. > I prefer doing the ironing sitting down.

Simple Conjugations of the Irregular '-ir-' Verb 'Asseoir'

This is the old form, considered more common, nicer, more polite, and more prestigious. It is a pure third-group irregular conjugation.

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
ilassiedassiéraasseyaitPassé composé
nousasseyonsassiéronsasseyions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vousasseyezassiérezasseyiez   Past participleassis
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
(nous) asseyons 

Simple Conjugations of the REGULAR '-ir-' VERB 'ASSOIR'

The post-1990, modernized form, assoir, may be typical of official texts, but it is still the less common conjugation. The first, second, and third person singular, and the third person plural of assoir are very common, probably because of the similarity to the infinitive. But the first and second person plural of the modern form are not.

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
ilassoitassoiraassoyaitPassé composé
nousassoyonsassoironsassoyions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vousassoyezassoirezassoyiez   Past participleassis
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
(nous) assoyons