Conjugating the Irregular French Verb 'Croire' ('to Believe')

'Croire' is so irregular you have to memorize it to use it correctly

French croire conjugation

Croire, meaning "to believe" and "to think," is a among the most frequently used verbs by the analytical French. It is also a highly irregular French -re verb that doesn't follow regular conjugation patterns.

Within irregular French -re verbs, there are a few verbs that demonstrate patterns, including verbs conjugated like prendre, battre, metter and rompre, and verbs ending in -craindre, -peindre and -oindre.

Croire, to the contrary, is one of those highly irregular French verbs with conjugations so unusual and unwieldy that they don't fall into any pattern. They are so irregular you just have to memorize them to use them correctly.

These very irregular -re verbs include: absoudre, boire, clore, conclure, conduire, confire, connaître, coudre, croire, dire, eacute;crire, faire, inscrire, lire, moudre, naître, plaire, rire, suivre​ and vivre. Try working on one verb a day until you've mastered them all.

The table below shows the irregular simple conjugations of croire. Note that the table does not include compound conjugations, which consist of a form of the auxiliary verb avoir and the past participle. 

Be careful when you say or spell the third person plural ils form, which is ils croient not ils croivent. Many people, even the French, make this mistake.  

'Croire': Meanings and Uses

The primary meaning of croire is “to believe.” It’s often followed by que, as in:
Je crois qu’il viendra. > I believe he will come.

Croire is not used with the subjunctive in the affirmative form, even if it’s followed by que. Granted it fulfills all the conditions for using the subjunctive, but, like je pense que + indicative, it’s an exception. Why? Because whoever is speaking really believes/thinks this is a reality, not a supposiiton.

Croire is used in the sign-off at the end of formal business letters
Veuillez croire, chère Madame, à l’expression de mes salutations distinguées. > Sincerely yours

'Croire en' or 'Croire à'?

When you believe in someone or in God, use “coire en.”

  • Il croit en Dieu. > He believes in God
  • Je crois en toi. > I believe in you.

When you believe in something, like an idea, or a myth, use “croire à.

  • Tu crois au Père-Noêl ? > Do you believe in Santa?
  • Ton idée de travail, j’y crois. > I believe in your work idea.

Pronominal: 'Se Croire'

When used in the reflexive form, the verb means to see oneself as, to believe oneself to be.

  • Elle se croit très intelligente. > She thinks she's very smart
  • Il s'y croit déjà. > He believes he's there already.

'Croire:' Idiomatic Expressions

There are many expressions with the irregular French verb croire. Here are a few:

Je crois que oui / non / si. > I think so. / I don't think so. / I actually do think so.
Olivier n’aime pas le chocolat, n’est-ce pas? Olivier doesn’t like chocolate right? > Je crois que si. I think he does actually like it.

Croire quelque chose dur comme fer (informal) > to be absolutely convinced of something 
Il croit dur comme fer qu’elle va revenir. > He is absolutely convinced she’ll come back.

À croire que... > You'd think...
Il est tellement content ! À croire que c’est Noël ! > He is so happy! You’d think it’s Christmas!

À l'en croire > if you believe him, according to him
À l’en croire, c’est le meilleur restaurant du monde. > If you believed him, it’s the best restaurant in the entire world.

Croyez-en mon expérience > Take it from me
Les huitres doivent être très fraîches, croyez-en mon expérience. > Oysters need to be really fresh, take it from me.

Croire quelqu’un sur parole > To take someone's word for it
Je l'ai cru sur parole. > I took his word for it.

N’en croire rien > to not believe a word of it
Tu n'en crois rien. > You don't believe a word of it.

Ne pas en croire ses yeux / ses oreilles. > to not believe your eyes/ears
Je n'en croyais pas mes oreilles. > I couldn't believe my ears

Ne pas croire si bien dire. > to not know how right you are.
Tu ne crois pas si bien dire ! > You don't know how right you are!

'Croire': Informal Expressions

Croire is also used in informal expressions. Their meanings can vary a lot depending on the context, and they are often used in a satirical way.

Faut pas croire ! (very informal: “il ne” is missing) > Make no mistake about it!
On ne dirait pas, mais il est très riche. Faut pas croire ! > It doesn’t look like it, but he is very rich. Make no mistake about it!

C’est ça, je te crois! > Right, I (don’t) believe you. (often satirical)

On croit rêver!  > (it’s so absurd) it’s like a dream. Meaning: I can hardly believe it!

Tu te crois où? > Where do you think you are?

Tu crois? (ironical) > You think so? (when the answer is obviously that it is so)

J'peux pas y croire (instead of Je ne peux pas y croire.)
J'le crois pas (instead of Je ne le crois pas.) > I can't believe it.

Simple Conjugations of the French Irregular '-re' Verb 'Croire'

Using croire   Expressions with croire

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
ilcroitcroiracroyaitPassé composé
nouscroyonscroironscroyions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vouscroyezcroirezcroyiez   Past participlecru
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
(nous) croyons