Simple Conjugations for the French Verb, 'Ouvrir,' Meaning 'to Open'

Opening windows
Assembly / Getty Images

The French verb ouvrir means "to open." It is an irregular -ir verb. Conjugating irregular French verbs can difficult for most students, but there is some good news: There are distinct patterns in the conjugations of irregular -ir verbs, which French grammarians have anointed le troisième groupe ("the third group"). So while there are roughly 50 irregular French -ir verbs, these shared patterns mean that you will only have to learn about 16 conjugations.

Conjugating Irregular "-ir" verbs

There are three groups of irregular -ir verbs. The verb ouvrir falls into the second group, which consists of verbs that end in -llir-frir, or -vrir. Almost all are conjugated like regular French -er verbs. In addition to ouvrir, this group includes the following verbs, plus their derivatives:

  • Couvrir > to cover 
  • Cueillir > to pick  
  • Découvrir > to discover
  • Entrouvrir > to half-open
  • Offrir > to offer 
  • Recueillir > to collect
  • Recouvrir > to recover, conceal
  • Rouvrir > to reopen 
  • Souffrir > to suffer

Conjugating "Ouvrir"

With regular -ir verb conjugations, the stem remains intact; in irregular -ir verb conjugations, by contrast, the stem does not remain intact throughout. The conjugations below include the passé composé, meaning the perfect tense, and the passé simple, the simple past.

The passé composé is the most common French past tense, often used in conjunction with the imperfect.

The passé simple, which can also be translated into English as the "preterite," is also used alongside the imperfect. You will probably never need to use the passé simple, but it is important to recognize it, especially if you read many French fiction or nonfiction works.

 Present Future Imperfect Present participle
j'ouvreouvriraiouvraisouvrant
tuouvresouvrirasouvrais 
ilouvreouvriraouvraitPassé composé
nousouvronsouvrironsouvrions   Auxiliary verb avoir
vousouvrezouvrirezouvriez   Past participleouvert
ilsouvrentouvrirontouvraient 
 
 Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
j'ouvreouvriraisouvrisouvrisse
tuouvresouvriraisouvrisouvrisses
ilouvreouvriraitouvritouvrît
nousouvrionsouvririonsouvrîmesouvrissions
vousouvriezouvririezouvrîtesouvrissiez
ilsouvrentouvriraientouvrirentouvrissent
 
 Imperative
(tu)ouvre Verb conjugation pattern  Ouvrir is an irregular verb
All French verbs that end in -frir or -vrir are conjugated
this way.
(nous) ouvrons 
(vous)ouvrez 

Using "Ouvrir"

There is probably no better use for the word ouvrir than during the holidays, especially at Christmastime. Just as in the United States, Christmas is an important holiday in France, and the thought of opening presents brings great excitement.

A common way to describe the festive time might be:

Comme dans le reste du monde, les Français se réunissent en famille autour du sapin de Noël, et souvent d'une petite crèche, et les enfants attendent que le Père Noël soit passé pour ouvrir les cadeaux le 25 au matin.

This translates as:

As in the rest of the world, the French gather around the Christmas tree, and often a little manger, and the children wait for Santa Claus to pass by so they can open presents on the morning of the 25th.

Learning to use the verb ouvrir, then, can help open doors to you as you discuss and take part in many French cultural discussions and celebrations.