-AYER: French Stem-Changing Verbs

Man sweeping floor inside a restaurant
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French stem-changing verbs are conjugated with the same endings as regular -ER verbs but have two different radicals or stems. Stem-changing verbs are sometimes also called boot verbs or shoe verbs because if you circle the forms that have stem changes in the conjugation table below, the resulting shape looks like a boot or shoe.

All verbs that end in -yer are stem-changing verbs, but there are two different varieties:

  1. Verbs that end in -ayer (see below) have an optional stem change
  2. Verbs that end in -oyer and -uyer have a required stem change

-ayer verbs

In the present tense, -ayer verbs have an optional stem change: y changes to i in all forms but nous and vous.

   je  paie       nous  payons
   tu  paies     vous  payez
   il  paie        ils  paient

Or they can be conjugated as regular -ER verbs:

   je  paye       nous  payons
   tu  payes     vous  payez
   il  paye        ils  payent

These two sets of conjugations for -ayer verbs are equally acceptable.

Verb conjugation group

  • balayer: to sweep
  • effrayer: to frighten
  • essayer: to try
  • payer: to pay


These stem changes are not limited to the present tense; see payer in all tenses or the lesson on -yer verbs in other tenses.

Note: Verbs that end in -oyer and -uyer have the same stem change, but it is required: -oyer and -uyer verbs.

French stem-changing verbs are conjugated with the same endings as regular -ER verbs but have two different radicals or stems. Stem-changing verbs are sometimes also called boot verbs or shoe verbs because if you circle the forms that have stem changes in the conjugation table below, the resulting shape looks like a boot or shoe.

All verbs that end in -yer are stem-changing verbs, but there are two different varieties:

  1. Verbs that end in -ayer  have an optional stem change
  2. Verbs that end in -oyer and -uyer (see below) have a required stem change

In the present tense, French verbs that end in -oyer and -uyer must change y to i in all forms but nous and vous.

-oyer verbs

   je  nettoie       nous  nettoyons
   tu  nettoies     vous  nettoyez
   il  nettoie        ils  nettoient

These stem changes are not limited to the present tense; see nettoyer in all tenses or the lesson on -yer verbs in other tenses.

Verb conjugation group

  • broyer: to grind
  • employer: to employ
  • envoyer: to send
  • nettoyer: to clean
  • se noyer: to drown
  • renvoyer: to fire
  • tutoyer: to use tu
  • vouvoyer: to use vous (learn about tu vs vous)

-uyer verbs

   j'  ennuie       nous  ennuyons
   tu  ennuies     vous  ennuyez
   il  ennuie        ils  ennuient

Verb conjugation group

  • appuyer: to lean, press
  • ennuyer: to bore
  • essuyer: to wipe

These stem changes are not limited to the present tense; see ennuyer in all tenses or the lesson on -yer verbs in other tenses.

Conjugation With Same Endings

French stem-changing verbs are conjugated with the same endings as regular -ER verbs but have two different radicals or stems. These stem changes occur in several French tenses and moods and moods, as shown in the following table. Remember that the stem-change for is optional for -ayer verbs and required for -oyer and -uyer verbs.

In the present tensesubjunctive, and imperative, the stem change occurs in all conjugations except nous and vous:

Present
je paie nettoie ennuie
tu paies nettoies ennuies
il paie nettoie ennuie
nous payons nettoyons ennuyons
vous payez nettoyez ennuyez
ils paient nettoient ennuient
Subjunctive
je paie nettoie ennuie
tu paies nettoies ennuies
il paie nettoie ennuie
nous payions nettoyions ennuyions
vous payiez nettoyiez ennuyiez
ils paient nettoient ennuient
Imperative
(tu) paie nettoie ennuie
(nous) payons nettoyons ennuyons
(vous) payez nettoyez ennuyez

In the future and conditional, the stem change occurs in all conjugations.

There is no stem change in the imperfect, present participle, past participle, passé simple, or imperfect subjunctive.

Note: The affected conjugations of these stem-change patterns are the same for all the different types of stem-changing verbs.

See -yer verbs conjugated in all tenses:

payer   nettoyer   ennuyer