Introduction To French Verbs

Introduction to French Verbs
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Most French students are very impressed when it comes to French verbs. So, in this lesson, let’s talk about French verbs, and explain the vocabulary French teachers use to explain how to conjugate French verbs.

What is a Verb?

A verb indicates an action. It can be physical (to walk, to run, to go), mental (to think, to laugh), or a condition (to be, to have).

A verb is “conjugated” to match (we say to agree with) its subject: he does, she has, they were as opposed to he do, she have, they be...

What is a Person in Grammar?

In grammar, a person refers to the different pronouns used to conjugate a verb: I, you, he, she, it, we, they. Read my article about the different French subject pronouns which explains this concept better.

What is an Agreement ?

In French, some words are said to “agree” with each other. The same way as in English you will add an “s” to the he / she/ it (she singS).

In French, you will have to change some words or parts of words (like the endings of verbs) to match other words related them.  

What is a Subject ? 

The subject is the person or thing that does the action of the verb. 

There is an easy way to find the subject of a sentence. First, find the verb. Then ask: “who + verb” or “what + verb”. The answer to that question will be your subject.

A subject is a noun (Camille, flower, room...) or a pronoun (I, you, they...).

It can be a person, a thing, a place, an idea...


I paint.
Who paints?
Answer: I paint. “I” is the subject.

Camille is teaching French.
Who is teaching?
Answer: Camille is teaching.
“Camille” is the subject. 

What is happening to Camille?
What’s happening?
Answer: What is happening.
“What” is the subject (This one was trickier, wasn’t it?) 

What is a Verb Conjugation?

The conjugation is the way a subject changes a verb so they match (or agree).

In English, the conjugation of verbs is quite simple. The verbs don’t change much (I, you, we, they speak – he, she, it speakS) except for the verb to be (I am, you are, he is).

It is not so in French, where the verb form changes with almost each different person.

Some verbs are called “regular” because they follow a predictable conjugation pattern (such as adding an “s” to the 3rd person singular in English), some are called “irregular” because their conjugation pattern is not predictable (like the verb “to be” in English).

The way French verbs are written and their pronunciations are also very different, this is why I highly recommend you train with audio when learning your French verbs.

What is the Infinitive of a Verb?

The infinitive is the form of the verb before it is being conjugated. It’s the basic verb name: “to speak”. In English, the infinitive is usually preceded by “to”: “to study”, but not always (example: “can”.)

In French, there is no “to” before the verb. The infinitive form is shown by the last two or three letters, usually “er”, “ir” or “re” that will also determine the conjugation pattern of the verb if the verb is regular.

What is a Verb Tense?

A tense indicates when the action of the verb is taking place: now, in the past, in the future.

  • A simple tense consists of only one verb form (ie: “I speak”).
  • A compound tense consists of one or more auxiliary verb + a main verb (ie: “I am speaking”, “I have been thinking”).

What is a Verb Mood?

The mood indicates the position of the subject towards the verb: is the subject making a statement (indicative mood), giving a command (imperative mood). This will affect the conjugation of the verb.

Voilà, this should get you started about understanding French grammar books or your French teacher when they talk about French verbs. 

How to Conjugate French Verbs?

Learning French verbs is a long process, and you shouldn't learn everything at once. Start by learning the conjugation in the present indicative of the most common irregular and regular French verbs. Make sure you get the pronunciation right!

French is full of liaison, elision and glidings, and is not pronounced like it's written! 

If you are serious about learning French, I suggest you start with a good French audio method. Read my article on how to select the right tools to learn French to self-study.

Now, your next step is to learn about French Subject Pronouns.

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