How to Conjugate the Irregular French Verb 'Boire' (to Drink)

"Boire" is so irregular that you'll need to memorize it

Woman drinking wine
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Boire, meaning "to drink," is a very common French verb that is also irregular. Below are the simple conjugations of the verb; they do not include the compound tenses, which consist of a form of the auxiliary verb with the past participle.

Beware of 'Boire'

Boire is an -re verb that is highly irregular. There are regular -er verbs and there are irregular -er verbs, and the irregular group can be organized into essentially five patterns around the verbs prendre, battre, mettre, rompre, and those that end with the root word -craindre. 

But boire does not fit any of these patterns. It belongs to the remaining irregular -re verbs, which have such unusual or unwieldy conjugations that you have to memorize each one separately. These are very common and important verbs, so you need to learn them in order to communicate effectively in French. Try memorizing one verb a day until you've mastered them all. They include: absoudre, boire, clore, conclure, conduire, confire, connaître, coudre, croire, dire, écrire, faire, inscrire, lire, moudre, naître, plaire, rire, suivre, and vivre.

Tips on Conjugating 'Boire'

Though Boire—as noted—is generally used in everyday language to mean "to drink," it can be used idiomatically, as in boire un coup ("to have a drink"). The verb prendre ("to take") can also stand in for boire, as in the expression prendre un verre, "to have a drink" or "to have one drink."

Note that in the conjugations below, ​the root of the verb changes from boi- in the present singular to buv- in the present plural, which continues in the imperfect tense.

Simple Conjugations of 'Boire'

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
ilboitboirabuvaitPassé composé
nousbuvonsboironsbuvions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vousbuvezboirezbuviez   Past participlebu
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
(nous) buvons 

Using 'Boire' in French

It can be helpful when learning irregular verbs like boire to see examples of how this strange but common verb is used in everyday Fench. recommends starting with the simplest uses, such as in the present tense, as the examples below demonstrate:

  • Jacques boit de l'eau. > Jacques drinks water.

In this use, you're essentially saying il (he) drinks water, so you use the conjugation for the third-person, singular in the present tense.

  • Marc, Florence, et Marie boivent du thé. > Marc, Florence, and Mary drink tea.

Similarly to the first example, this conjugation follows the pattern for ils/elles because you can substitute the third-person plural pronoun ils (they) for Marc, Florence, et Marie.

  • Madame la Présidente, buvez-vous du café?  > Madame President, do you drink coffee?

In this example, you're speaking directly to Madame la Présidente, so you would use the conjugation for the second-person singular, vous (you), in the present tense. The other conjugations can be more difficult, but if you take the time to memorize them, tu vas boire—you'll be drinking—coffee like a French-speaking native at a sidewalk cafe by the Seine river in Paris before you know it.

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ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate the Irregular French Verb 'Boire' (to Drink)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 4, 2018, ThoughtCo. (2018, March 4). How to Conjugate the Irregular French Verb 'Boire' (to Drink). Retrieved from ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate the Irregular French Verb 'Boire' (to Drink)." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 25, 2018).