French Present Tense

Introduction to the French present indicative

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The French present tense, called le présent or le présent de l'indicatif, is quite similar in usage to the English present tense. In French, the present tense is used to express all of the following:

I. Current actions and situations

   Je suis fatigué.
   I am tired.

   Nous allons au marché.
   We are going to the market.

II. Habitual actions

   Il va à l'école tous les jours.
   He goes to school every day.
   Je visite des musées le samedi.
   I visit museums on Saturdays.

III. Absolute and general truths

   La terre est ronde.
   The earth is round.

   L'éducation est importante.
   Education is important.

IV. Actions which will occur immediately

   J'arrive !
   I'll be right there!

   Il part tout de suite.
   He is leaving right away.

V. Conditions, such as in si clauses

   Si je peux, j'irai avec toi.
   If I can, I will go with you.

   Si vous voulez.
   If you like.

Note: The present tense is not used after certain constructions that indicate an action that will occur in the future, such as après que (after) and aussitôt que (as soon as). Instead, the future is used in French.

The French present tense has three different English equivalents, because the English helping verbs "to be" and "to do" are not translated into French. For example, je mange can mean all of the following:

  • I eat.
  • I am eating.
  • I do eat.

If you want to emphasize the fact that something is happening right now, you can use the conjugated verb être + en train de + infinitive. So to say "I am eating (right now)," you would literally say "I am in the process of eating": Je suis en train de manger.

To learn how to conjugate French verbs in the present tense and then test yourself, please see these related lessons:

Regular Verbs

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Team, ThoughtCo. "French Present Tense." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). French Present Tense. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "French Present Tense." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).