Comprendre: To Understand

Simple conjugations for the French verb comprendre

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There may be no more important French verb than comprendre, "to understand." First, you can use the verb to express your level of comprehension when studying French; second, it's particularly important to pronounce words correctly when speaking this Romance language so that others comprehend; and, third, to be taken seriously by native speakers when you use the language, it's vital that you use proper grammar and conjugate this and other French verbs correctly.

Irregular "Re" Verb

Comprendre is an irregular French "re" verb that is conjugated in the same way that all French verbs ending in prendre are conjugated. The table below displays the conjugations for comprendre in the present, future, imperfect, passé (past) simple, and present participle tenses, as well as the subjunctive, conditional, and imperfect subjunctive moods.

Each conjugation is preceded by the correct pronoun: je (I), tu (you), il (he), nous (we), vous (you, plural), and ils (they). Study the chart, and soon you'll be able to say that nous comprenons (you understand) how to conjugate this verb, regardless of its tense or mood.

Comprendre Conjugations

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
ilcomprendcomprendracomprenaitPassé composé
nouscomprenonscomprendronscomprenions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vouscomprenezcomprendrezcompreniez   Past participlecompris
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
(tu)comprends Verb conjugation pattern: Comprendre is an irregular verb.
All French verbs ending in prendre are conjugated this way.

(nous) comprenons 

Example Uses

The previous chart can be helpful in learning how to conjugate this French verb. But, reading how this verb is used in conversation is also instructive. offers this list of examples:

  • Tu comprends le français? (You understand French?)
  • Oui, je comprends le français. (Yes, I understand French.)
  • Ils comprend l'allemand. (They understand German.)
  • Vous comprenez bien le français. (You understand French well.)
  • Nous comprenons l'anglais. (We understand English.)

You can also deepen your understanding by learning how comprendre is used when it is paired with other French verbs, such as chercher. When chercher is followed by a verb, it means "to try" or "to attempt" and must be followed by the preposition à. It just so happens that chercer pairs nicely with comprendre, as in the sentence,  Je cherche à comprendre la situation, which translates as, "I'm trying to understand the situation."


You may also better comprehend the verb if you understand the origin of the English word "comprehend." The American-English word derives from a Middle English term, which comes from the Anglo-French comprendre, comprehendre. Not surprisingly—since French is a Romance languagee—those terms derive from the Latin word comprehendere, meaning com- + prehendere, "to grasp." (The infusion of French words into the English language began in 1066 when William the Conqueror successfully invaded England ushering in great legal and social changes including the introduction of many French terms into the language.) 

Just remember, then, that comprendre, as well as its English translation, "comprehend," both mean that a person truly grasps, or grabs onto, an important bit knowledge, a historical era, a philosophical concept, or even the conjugations of a French verb.