French Impersonal Verbs - Verbes impersonnels

Verbes impersonnels

In order to understand French impersonal verbs, you first have to understand that they have nothing to do with personality. "Impersonal" simply means that the verb does not change according to grammatical person. Therefore, impersonal verbs have only one conjugation: the third person singular indefinite, or il, which in this case is equivalent to "it" in English.

Notes

  • Click on the underlined verbs to see how they are conjugated in all the simple tenses.
  • Many impersonal verbs can also be used personally with somewhat different meanings - these are noted in the last column for your reference.

 * Indicates that the verb needs the subjunctive.
 

Impersonal verb meaningPersonal meaning
  
s'agir de - to be a question of, to have to do withagir - to act, behave
      Il s'agit d'argent.It has to do with money.
 Il s'agit de faire ce qu'on peut.It's a question of doing what one can.
     
arriver - to happen, to be a possibilityarriver - to arrive
 Il est arrivé un accident.There's been an accident.
 Il m'arrive de faire des erreurs.I sometimes make mistakes.
     
convenir - to be advisable, to be agreedconvenir - to suit
 Il convient d'être prudent.Caution is advised.
 Il est convenu que nous déciderons demain.It is agreed that we will decide tomorrow.
     
faire - to be (with weather or temperature)faire - to do, make
 Il fait du soleil.It's sunny. 
 Il faisait froid.It was cold.
     
falloir* - to be necessary 
 Il faut le faire.It has to be done.
 Il faudra que je le fasse /
Il me faudra le faire.
It will be necessary for me to do it /
I will have to do it.
  
importer* - to matter, be importantimporter - to import
 Il importe qu'elle vienne. It's important that she come.
 Il importe de le faire. It's important to do it.
   
neiger - to snow 
 Il neige.It's snowing.
 Il va neiger demain.It's going to snow tomorrow.
    
se passer - to happenpasser - to pass, spend (time)
 Qu'est-ce qui se passe ?What's happening?
 Ça s'est mal passé.It went badly.
    
pleuvoir - to rain 
 Il pleut.It's raining.
 Il a plu hier.It rained yesterday.
     
se pouvoir* - to be possiblepouvoir - can, to be able
 Il se peut qu'elles soient là.They may be there /
It's possible that they will be there.
 Se peut-il que Luc finisse ?Is it possible that Luc will finish? /
Could it be that Luc will finish?
  
sembler* - to seemsembler - to seem
 Il semble qu'elle soit malade.It seems that she is sick.
 Il (me) semble impossible.It seems impossible (to me).
  
suffire* - to suffice, be enoughsuffire - to suffice
 Il suffit que tu le fasses demain /
Il te suffit de le faire demain.
It's enough if you do it tomorrow.
 Ça suffit !That's enough!
  
tenir à - to depend ontenir - to hold, keep
 Il ne tient qu'à toi de...It's up to you to...
 Ça tient à peu de chose.It can go either way (literally: it depends on little)
 
se trouver - to be, to happen to betrouver - to find
 Il se trouve toujours des gens qui...There are always people who...
 Il se trouve que c'est moi.It happens to be me.
  
valoir mieux* - to be bettervaloir - to be worth
 Il vaut mieux le faire toi-même.
Il vaut mieux que tu le fasses.
It's better for you to do it (yourself).
  
venir - to comevenir - to come
 Il vient beaucoup de monde.A lot of people are coming.
 Il vient un moment où...There comes a time when...
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Lawless, Laura K. "French Impersonal Verbs - Verbes impersonnels." ThoughtCo, Sep. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/french-impersonal-verbs-1368861. Lawless, Laura K. (2016, September 23). French Impersonal Verbs - Verbes impersonnels. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-impersonal-verbs-1368861 Lawless, Laura K. "French Impersonal Verbs - Verbes impersonnels." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-impersonal-verbs-1368861 (accessed December 13, 2017).