How to Conjugate "Obéir" (to Obey) in French

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In French, the verb obéir means "to obey." It is very similar to its counterpart désobéir (to disobey) and the two require the same verb conjugations. That means you can study both at the same time and make each a little easier to learn. We're going to study obéir in this lesson and introduce you to its most basic conjugations.

The Basic Conjugations of Obéir

French verb conjugations are required to transform the verb into things like the present tense "am obeying" and the past tense "obeyed." To form them, you will add a variety of endings to the verb stem, much as we do in English.

The catch with French is that there's a new ending for every subject pronoun within each tense. While that does mean you have more words to remember, it does become easier with each new verb you study. Obéir is a regular -ir verb, which is one of the more common patterns, so that also makes memorization a little easier.

To begin, we'll work with the indicative verb mood and the basic present, future, and imperfect past tenses. All you need to do is match the subject pronoun to the proper tense for you subject in the chart to learn which ending to use. For example, "I am obeying" is j'obéis while "we will obey" is nous obéirons.

Present Future Imperfect
j' obéis obéirai obéissais
tu obéis obéiras obéissais
il obéit obéira obéissait
nous obéissons obéirons obéissions
vous obéissez obéirez obéissiez
ils obéissent obéiront obéissaient

The Present Participle of Obéir

As with most -ir verbs, you will need to add -ssant to obéir to form the present participle. The result is the word obéissant.

Obéir in the Compound Past Tense

For the past tense, you can choose between the imperfect or the passé composé, which is one of the most often used compounds in French. To form it for obéir, you'll need the auxiliary verb avoir and the past participle obéi.

For example, "I obeyed" is j'ai obéi and "we obeyed" is nous avons obéi. Notice how you only need to conjugate avoir in the present tense to match the subject and that the past participle always remains the same.

More Simple Conjugations of Obéir

At times, you may also find a few other simple conjugations useful. For instance, the subjunctive allows you to imply some uncertainty to the action of obeying. Similarly, the conditional is useful for an "if...then" situation where something else must happen first. There may also be times when you'll encounter or use the passé simple or imperfect subjunctive.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé Simple Imperfect Subjunctive
j' obéisse obéirais obéis obéisse
tu obéisses obéirais obéis obéisses
il obéisse obéirait obéit obéît
nous obéissions obéirions obéîmes obéissions
vous obéissiez obéiriez obéîtes obéissiez
ils obéissent obéiraient obéirent obéissent

For a verb like obéir, the imperative can be quite useful, especially when you want to command or forcefully request that someone "Obey!" The subject pronoun is not required, so you can simplify it to "Obéis !"

(tu) obéis
(nous) obéissons
(vous) obéissez
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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate "Obéir" (to Obey) in French." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How to Conjugate "Obéir" (to Obey) in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate "Obéir" (to Obey) in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).