How to Conjugate the French Stem-Changing Verb 'Épeler' ('to Spell')

The L doubles in the épeler stem in present, subjunctive, imperative

Épeler, pronounced "ay pl ay," is a stem-changing verb, one of the five major groups of French verbs. These groups include: regular -er, -ir, -re verbs; stem-changing verbs; and irregular verbs. 

'Épeler' Is a Stem-Changing Verb

French stem-changing verbs are conjugated with the same endings as regular -er verbs, but they have two different stems and end in either -eler, as with épeler, or -eter. In the present tensesubjunctive, and imperative, the stem change occurs in all conjugations of these verbs, except in nous and vous.

How Does the Stem Change?

The stem changes consist of the following: For -eler verbs, the L doubles in the present, subjunctive and imperative (except nous and vous). For -eter verbs, the T doubles.

Scroll to the bottom and scan the conjugations in the bottom table to see what we mean. The table includes the simple conjugations of épeler (an -eler verb). You'll see the L double in the present, subjunctive and imperative (except nous and vous). By the way, this table does not include compound tenses, which require the auxiliary avoir and the past participle épelé.

Here, for instance, is the present tense of appeler, another stem-changing -eler verb. It's easy to spot the double L's.

   j'  appelle       nous  appelons
   tu  appelles     vous  appelez
   il  appelle        ils  appellent

Stem-Changing -eler Verbs

   appeler - to call
   épeler - to spell
   rappeler - to call back, recall
   renouveler - to renew
Exceptions: celerciselerdémantelerécartelergelerharcelermartelermodelerpeler, and their derivatives.

All of these exceptions are conjugated like -e_er verbs.

For the present tense of verbs that end in -e_er, where _ indicates one or more consonants, the stem change consists of changing the e before that consonant to è in all forms but nous and vous. (The last group of stem-changing verbs includes those verbs ending in -é_er,  which change é to è in all forms of the present tense but nous and vous.)

Examples of Usage

The French verb épeler, which means "to spell or spell out" may not be the most frequently verb the French use to talk about spelling. Very often, one simply says écrire or s'écrire:

  • Ils ont mal écrit mon nom. > They've spelled my name wrong.
  • Comment est-ce que ça s'écrit? > How do you spell that?

And the noun for the act of spelling is commonly l'orthographe, so verbs are used with that to build the concept of "to spell," as in:

  • apprendre l'orthographe > to learn to spell
  • Il est mauvais en orthographe. > He spells badly.

But épeler is definitely used and here are several examples:

Voulez-vous que j'épelle mon nom ? > Shall I spell my name for you? 

Pouvez-vous me l'épeler ? > Can you spell it for me?

Est-ce que vous pouvez l'épeler, s'il vous plaît ? > Can you spell that please?

Je ne sais même pas s'ils savent comment épeler ce terme. > I honestly don't know if they can even spell the word.

Les mots difficiles à épeler ou à prononcer et ceux qui portent à confusion devraient être évités; > Complicated or confusing spelling and pronunciation should be avoided.

Il n'y a qu'une personne capable de le pousser à épeler du mieux qu'il peut. > There's only one person who can push him to spell as well as he possibly can.

Simple Conjugations of the French Stem-Changing Verb Épeler

 Present Future Imperfect  Present participle
j'épelleépelleraiépelais épelant
ilépelleépelleraépelait Passé composé
nousépelonsépelleronsépelions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vousépelezépellerezépeliez   Past participle épelé
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple  Imperfect subjunctive
j'épelleépelleraisépelai épelasse
tuépellesépelleraisépelas épelasses
ilépelleépelleraitépela épelât
nousépelionsépellerionsépelâmes épelassions
vousépeliezépelleriezépelâtes épelassiez
ilsépellentépelleraientépelèrent épelassent
(tu)épelleVerb conjugation pattern
Épeler is a stem-changing verb
(nous) épelons