Learn to Conjugate the French Irregular Verb Lire (to Read)

French LIRE conjugation

Lire, "to read," is an irregular French -re verb. Some -er verbs, despite being irregular still follow certain patterns, such as prendre (to take) and battre (to beat) or verbs that end in -aindre, -eindre, and -oindre. Thanks to identifiable patterns, these verbs are a little easier to conjugate.

Unfortunately, lire is not in any of these groups. It's one of the very irregular -re verbs with such unusual conjugations that you just have to memorize it separately.

Other verbs with unique conjugations include absoudre (to absolve), boire (to drink), clore (to close), conclure (to conclude), conduire (to drive), confire (to give it), connaître (to know), coudre (to sew), croire (to believe), dire (to say), écrire (to write), faire (to make), inscrire (to inscribe), moudre (to grind), naître (to be born), plaire (to please), rire (to laugh), suivre (to follow), and vivre (to live)

Try working on one verb a day until you've mastered them all. 

Similar Verbs

There are verbs similar to lire that have their own conjugations, such as élire (to elect), réélire (to reelect), and relire (to read again). They are similar, but not be identical in every case. Check out the conjugation of each before you use them.

Lire Usage Examples

While the conjugations of lire are irregular, the meaning is generally straightforward: "to read." It can be used intransitively (without a direct object), as in:

  • Aimer lire: to like to read
  • Elle apprend à lire toute seule.: She's learning to read all by herself.

Lire can also be used transitively (with a direct object), as this example from Collins French-English Dictionary shows: 

  • Où est-ce que tu as lu ça? > Where did you read that?

Despite the difficulty in conjugating lire, Collins says this verb is one of the 1,000 most common words in its translation dictionary. This may be because the verb also has some mundane, but very common, uses, as in this sentence from Le Nouvel Observateur (The New Observer):

  • Cliquez ci-contre colonne de droite pour lire les éditoriaux disponibles integralement en ligne. Click the right column here to read editorials available in full online.

Expressions Using Lire

There are a few idiomatic expressions using lire, including:

  • Lire en diagonale: to skim through something
  • Lire dans les pensées: to read someone's thoughts
  • Lire la suite: read more (computer prompt)
  • Lire la presse: to read the (printed) press

You may find it helpful to commit these expressions to memory. You'll likely hear them if you visit France or even if you are conversing with French speakers.

Present Indicative

Je lis Je lis tous les jours. I read every day.
Tu lis Tu lis dans mes pensées. You are reading my thoughts.
Il/Elle/On lit Il lit un livre. He is reading a book.
Nous lisons Nous lisons le menu. We are reading the menu.
Vous lisez Vous lisez le journal You read the newspaper?
Ils/Elles lisent Elles lisez ensemble tous les soirs. They read together every night.

Compound Past Indicative

The passé composé is a past tense that can be translated as the simple past or the present perfect. For the verb lire, it is formed with the auxiliary verb avoir and the past participle lu​.

Je ai lu J'ai lu au sujet de tous ces projets. I read about all these projects.
Tu as lu Tu as lu le rapport de hier? Did you read yesterday's report?
Il/Elle/On a lu Elle l'a lu page par page. She read it page by page.
Nous avons lu Nous avons lu la prière de demandes de pardon. We read the prayer for forgiveness.
Vous avez lu Vous avez lu son certificat médical? Did you read his health certificate?
Ils/Elles ont lu Ils l'ont lu récemment dans le journal. They read it in the paper recently.

Imperfect Indicative

The imperfect tense is another form of a past tense, but it is used to talk about ongoing or repeated actions in the past. L'imparfait of the verb lire can be translated to English as "was reading,” “would read," or "used to read," although it can sometimes also be translated as the simple "read," depending on the context.

Je lisais Je me souviens de la déception que je lisais dans son visage. I remember the disappointment on her face.
Tu lisais Tu lisais beaucoup sur le logement social. You used to​ read a lot about social housing.
Il/Elle/On lisait Elle lisait les cours de la bourse. She used to​ read the stock market
Nous lisions Nous lisions la vie de Jésus ces jours-là. In those days, we used to​ read the life of Jesus.
Vous lisiez Chaque soir, vous nous lisiez le Gros Livre Bleu. You used to​ read to us the Big Blue Book every night.
Ils/Elles lisaient Elles lisaient des livres d'historie d'art.

They used to​ read art history books.

Simple Future Indicative

To talk about the future in English, in most cases we simply add the modal verb "will." In French, however, the future tense is formed by adding different endings to the infinitive

Je lirai Je ne le lirai pas en entier. I won't​ read it in its entirety.
Tu liras Tu liras demain le rapport du juge. You will​ read the judge's report tomorrow.
Il/Elle/On lira Il ne lira pas toute la motion. He will not​ read the whole motion.
Nous lirons Nous ne le lirons pas. We are not going to quote from it.
Vous lirez J'espere que vous lirez ce que j'ai écrit. I hope you will​ read what I wrote.
Ils/Elles liront Elles ne se liront pas aisément. They will​ not be easily identifiable.

Near Future Indicative

Another form of a future tense is the near future, the futur proche, which is the equivalent of the English "going to + verb." In French, the near future is formed with the present tense conjugation of the verb aller (to go) + the infinitive (lire).

Je vais lire Je vais lire encore une fois ce que tu as écrit. I am going to​ read one more time what you wrote.
Tu vas lire Ce que tu vas lire est une orientation politique. What you are about to​ read is a political orientation.
Il/Elle/On va lire Elle va lire le texte français. She is going to​ read a French text.
Nous allons lire Nous allons lire la révision en anglais. We are going to​ read the revision in English.
Vous allez lire Vous allez lire le poème don't j'ai parlé hier. You are going to​ read the poem I talked about yesterday.
Ils/Elles vont lire Ils vont lire seulement la partie surlignée. They are only going to​ read the underlined part.

Conditional

The conditional mood in French is equivalent to the English "would + verb." Notice that the endings it adds to the infinitive are very similar to those in the imperfect indicative.

Je lirais Je ne vous lirais pas les chiffres. I won't read you the figures.
Tu lirais Tu lirais You would read
Il/Elle/On lirait Si elle avait le temps, elle lirait des pages et des pages de ce roman. If she had the time, she would read pages and pages of this novel.
Nous lirions Nous ne vous les lirions pas We won't read them to you.
Vous liriez Si on vous donnait un nouveau logiciel à apprendre, liriez-vous d'abord le manuel? If you were given a new computer program to learn, would you read the manual first?
Ils/Elles liraient Elles liraient avec beaucoup d'intérêt. They would read with a lot of interest.

Present Subjunctive

The subjunctive mood conjugation of lire, which comes in after the expression que + person, looks very much like the present indicative and past imperfect.

Que je lise Souhaitez-vous que je lise la lettre? Would you like me to read the letter?
Que tu lises Pour le savoir, il faut que tu lises le programme. To determine that, you have to read about this program.
Qu'il/elle/on lise Il faudra qu'elle lise sur toutes ces choses. She has to read about all those things.
Que nous lisions Il a proposé que nous lisions son livre. He suggested that we read his book.
Que vous lisiez J'aimerais que vous lisiez ce texte. I'd like you to read this text.
Qu'ils/elles lisent Je propose qu'ils lisent cette citation de Buddha. I suggest you read this quote from Buddha.

Imperative

The imperative mood is used to express demands, requests, direct exclamations, or to give commands, both positive and negative. They have the same verb form, but the negative commands include ne...pas, ne...plus, or ne...jamais around the verb

Positive Commands

Tu lis! Lis cela! Read this!
Nous lisons! Lisons ensemble! Let's read together!
Vous lisez! Lisez-nous! Read to us!

Negative Commands

Tu Ne lis pas! Ne lis pas en classe! Don't read in class!
Nous Ne lisons pas! Ne lisons pas ce livre! Let's not read this book!
Vous Ne lisez pas! Ne lisez pas ce report! Don't read that report!

Present Participle/Gerund

One of the uses of the present participle is to form the gerund (usually preceded by the preposition en), which can be used to talk about simultaneous actions. Otherwise, present participle is also used as a verb, adjective, or a noun.

Présent Participle/Gerund of Lire: lisant

Example: Tu peux vérifier cela en lisant les étiquettes. 
You can verify this by reading the labels.