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

French LIRE conjugation

Lire, "to read," is an irregular French -re verb. Below are the simple conjugations of the verb lire; they do not include the compound tenses, which consist of a form of the auxiliary verb and the past participle.

Very Irregular

There are irregular French -er verbs that fall into patterns such as prendre (to take), battre (to beat), mettre (to put), and rompre (to break up), and 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 one of those groups. It's one of the very irregular -re verbs with such unusual or unwieldy conjugations that you just have to memorize each verb separately. Try working on one verb a day until you've mastered them all. In addition to lire, these verbs 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).

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 back).

They are similar, but they may 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 intégralement en ligne. > Click the right column here to read editorials available in full online.

Simple Conjugations of "Lire"

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
illitliralisaitPassé composé
nouslisonslironslisions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vouslisezlirezlisiez   Past participlelu
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive

(nous) lisons 

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.