All About French Irregular '-ir' Verbs

50 Verbs but Only 16 Conjugations

Irregular verbs are difficult for most students, but there is some good news—patterns in the conjugations of irregular verbs, which French grammarians have anointed le troisième groupe ("the third group"). So while there are probably 50 irregular French -ir verbs, these shared patterns mean that you will only have to learn about 16 conjugations. 

There are essentially three groups of irregular -ir verb patterns that will make your life easier.

 Plus, we've got you covered with conjugation tables. Click any verb below for its complete conjugation table. These are the three conjugation groups:

Verbs Conjugated Like 'Partir'

The first group of irregular -ir verbs is essentially conjugated like the verb partir ("to leave"). This group also includes the following verbs, plus their derivatives:

These verbs are conjugated in the present tense by dropping the final letter of the stem in the singular conjugations before adding their endings. You find the stem by deleting the -ir ending; what remains is the stem and you add the conjugated ending to that stem.

With regular -ir verb conjugations, the stem remains intact; in irregular -ir verb conjugations, the stem does not remain intact throughout, as noted above. Below, see the present tense conjugation of the model verb partir and an example using dormir ("to sleep"). Note that the stem of partir is part-, while the stem of dormir is dorm-.

Partir, Presentpart-
je-spars
tu-spars
il/elle/on-tpart
nous  -onspartons
vous-ezpartez
ils/elles-entpartent
  
Dormir, Present dorm-
je-sdors
tu-sdors
il/elle/on-tdort
nous  -onsdormons
vous-ezdormez
ils/elles-entdorment

Verbs Ending in '-llir,' '-frir,' and '-vrir'

The second group consists of verbs that end in -llir, -frir,  or -vrir; almost all are conjugated like regular -er verbs. This group includes the following verbs, plus their derivatives:

  • couvrir > to cover 
  • cueillir > to pick  
  • découvrir > to discover
  • entrouvrir > to half-open
  • offrir > to offer 
  • ouvrir > to open
  • recueillir > to collect
  • recouvrir > to recover, conceal
  • rouvrir > to reopen 
  • souffrir > to suffer

See the example of couvrir ("to cover") below. The stem in this case is couvr-.

Couvrir, Present couvr-
je-ecouvre
tu-escouvres
il/elle/on-ecouvre
nous  -onscouvrons
vous-ezcouvrez
ils/elles-entcouvrent

Verbs Ending in '-enir'

In the third group, verbs such as tenir ("to hold") and venir ("to come") and their derivatives follow a shared conjugation pattern in the present tense. Note, however, a major difference in the compound tenses: Venir and most of its derivatives use être as their auxiliary verb, while tenir and its derivatives use avoir.

Venir, Present

jeviens
tuviens
il/elle/onvient
nous  venons
vousvenez
ils/elles

viennent

Wild Cards

The remaining irregular -ir verbs don't follow a pattern. You just have to memorize the conjugations for each of the following verbs separately. Luckily, most are among the most frequently used French verbs, so memorizing their conjugations is completely worth the trouble. They include:

  • acquérir > to acquire  
  • asseoir > to sit
  • avoir > to have
  • conquérir > to conquer
  • courir > to run
  • décevoir > to disappoint  
  • devoir > should, must, to be able to
  • falloir > to be necessary
  • mourir > to die
  • pleuvoir > to rain
  • pouvoir > can, to be able to  
  • recevoir > to receive
  • savoir > to know
  • valoir > to be worth
  • voir > to see
  • vouloir > to want