How to Conjugate 'Parler' (to Talk) in French

Woman talking on cellphone in Paris

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The French verb parler literally means "to talk" or "to speak." You'll find it used in a variety of idiomatic expressions and in order to use it properly, you'll definitely want to know how to conjugate it. A quick lesson will introduce you to this very useful verb while learning many common phrases.

Conjugating the French Verb Parler

We must learn how to conjugate verbs in order to place them in the correct tense for our sentences. By understanding how to do so, you'll be able to use parler in the past tense, "talked," the future tense "will talk," and the present tense "am talking."

French students will be happy to know that parler is a regular -er verb. It follows the most common conjugation pattern in the French language, so learning how to conjugate it is relatively easy. If you've studied other regular -er verbs, you can apply what you learned with those to this one.

To begin, we must identify the verb stem, which is parl. To this, we will add a variety of endings that match both the subject pronoun and the tense of the sentence. The most common forms of this are the indicative moods, which are found in this first chart. Using it, you will learn that "I am talking" is je parle and "we will talk" is nous parlerons. Practice these in context to help speed up your memorization.

Present Future Imperfect
je parle parlerai parlais
tu parles parleras parlais
il parle parlera parlait
nous parlons parlerons parlions
vous parlez parlerez parliez
ils parlent parleront parlaient

The present participle of parler is parlant. This is formed by adding -ant to the verb stem.

Another form of the past tense is the passé composé. To form it for parler, you will use the auxiliary verb avoir along with the past participle parlé. For instance, "we spoke" is nous avons parlé.

Among the other basic conjugations you may need for parler are the subjunctive and the conditional. These two verb moods imply that the act of talking may or may not happen depending on circumstances and there are rules for using both.

Also, the passé simple and the imperfect subjunctive may be useful, particularly if you do a lot of formal reading or writing in French.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé Simple Imperfect Subjunctive
je parle parlerais parlai parlasse
tu parles parlerais parlas parlasses
il parle parlerait parla parlât
nous parlions parlerions parlâmes parlassions
vous parliez parleriez parlâtes parlassiez
ils parlent parleraient parlèrent parlassent

The imperative verb mood is used to say short commands such as, "Talk!" When using it, skip the subject pronoun and simply say, "Parle !"

(tu) parle
(nous) parlons
(vous) parlez

Expressions With Parler

Learn how to babble, be a good speaker, make small talk, and more with these expressions that use parler. When the expression defines a subject, the proper conjugation is included for you. Others will require you to use your new conjugations skills to form a sentence.

Ways to Talk 

There are many forms of talking and ways to describe this action. Each requires some form of parler and many of these will need to be conjugated.

parler à to talk to
parler à tort et à travers to talk drivel, babble
parler au coeur to speak to the heart
parler du fond du coeur to speak from the heart
parler avec les mains to speak with one's hands
se parler to talk to oneself; to talk to one another
le parler speech, dialect
le parler de tous les jours everyday language
le parler vrai straight talking
le parler vulgaire vulgar/coarse way of speaking
parler par énigmes
parler par paraboles
to speak in riddles
parler par gestes to use sign language

Describing How Someone's Talking

You can use adjectives to describe the manner in which someone is talking. Here are a few common examples to give you a good foundation for saying such things in French.

parler crûment to speak bluntly
parler distinctement to speak distinctly
parler franc to speak frankly
parler d'or to speak words of wisdom
parler pour ne rien dire to talk for the sake of talking

You Speak Well (or Not)

There are also many common phrases that refer to how well someone speaks. These are useful, especially when you're new to the language.

parler bien to speak well, be a good speaker
parler mal to speak poorly, not be a good speaker
parler comme un livre (derogatory) to talk like a book
parler le français comme une vache espagnole (informal) to speak French terribly, literally "to speak French like a Spanish cow"
parler le français couramment to speak French fluently
Parlez-vous anglais ? Do you speak English?
Parlez-vous français ? Do you speak French?
Voilà qui est (bien) parlé ! Here! Here! Well said!

Things to Talk About

In conversation, you will have many things to talk about. Using these phrases as a base, you can substitute words and explain that you're talking about almost anything.

parler de to talk about
parler affaires to talk about business
parler boutique (informal) to talk shop
parler de choses et d'autres to talk about this and that, to make small talk
parler de faire quelque chose to talk about doing something
parler de la pluie et du beau temps to talk about this and that, to make small talk
parler politique to talk politics

To Complain

Talking does come with complaining at times, so you might need these phrases on occasion.

parler du nez to speak through one's nose
parler en l'air to talk without acting, to complain but not do anything
parler mal de quelqu'un to speak ill of someone
aimer s'écouter parler to like to hear oneself talk, to like the sound of one's own voice

I Heard...

Other common French expressions refer to hearing someone speak about something or someone else. Remember to conjugate parler as needed for these.

dire à quelqu'un sa façon de parler to tell someone what one thinks/feels
entendre parler de... to hear (someone talking) about...
faire parler to make talk, loosen one's tongue, draw out
faire parler de soi to get oneself talked about
ne jamais en parler to never talk about something

Talk About Yourself

When you want to tell someone about yourself, you'll find these expressions helpful.

Je parle français. I speak French.
Je parle un peu de français. I speak a little French.
Je ne parle pas français. I don't speak French.
Mais je parle, je parle... But enough about me...
moi qui vous parle I myself/personally

Talk About or To Someone Else

In other instances, you might be speaking about someone else. There are also a few phrases in this list that can be used when talking directly to someone.

parler pour quelqu'un to speak for someone, on someone's behalf
à vous parler franc to be frank with you
Vous n'avez qu'à parler. Just say the word.
On parle beaucoup de lui comme... He's being talked about as a possible/likely...
Nous ne nous parlons pas. We're not speaking (at the moment).
Ne m'en parlez pas ! (informal) You're telling me!
Tu parles ! (informal) You're telling me!, You must be joking!
Parlons-en ! (informal) Fat chance! You must be joking!
Tu peux parler ! (informal) You can talk! You're a fine one to talk!
Tu parles si... ! (informal) You must be joking if...! A fat lot of... !
Tu parles d'un... ! Talk about a...!
N'en parlons plus ! Let's not talk about that any more.
On m'a beaucoup parlé de vous. I've heard a lot about you.
Quand on parle du loup (on en voit la queue). Speak of the devil (and he appears).

Just to Clarify

When you need to clarify a point in French or ask someone else to do so, knowing these phrases will come in handy.

Parle pour toi ! Speak for yourself!
Parlez plus fort. Speak up.
Parlons peu mais parlons bien. Let's get straight to the point.
sans parler de... not to mention..., let alone... je ne parle pas de... not to mention...

Everyone's Talking 

Is everyone talking about something? If so, then you'll want to know how to tell someone else.

On ne parle que de ça. That's all people are talking about.
Tout le monde en parle. Everyone's talking about it.
Toute la ville en parle. It's the talk of the town.

Unusual Uses of Parler

While parler means "to talk," there are instances in which it has other meanings. As you can see in the following expressions, the verb can be deceptive at times and it's all about the context of the sentence.

Tout me parle de toi. Everything reminds me of you.
parler à l'imagination to appeal to the imagination
parler aux yeux to appeal to the eye
trouver à qui parler to meet one's match
faire parler la poudre to start a gunfight/war
C'est à vous de parler. (card game) It's your bid.

Figures of Speech

We'll finish up with a few common figures of speech that also use parler. These are nice additions to your French vocabulary and can help you remain part of any conversation.

C'est une façon de parler. It's (just) a figure of speech.
Ce ... me parle. This... really speaks to me.
Ce ... ne me parle pas. This... doesn't do anything for me.
C'est parler à un mur. It's like talking to a wall.
Le devoir a parlé. Duty called.
Les faits parlent d'eux-mêmes. The facts speak for themselves.
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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate 'Parler' (to Talk) in French." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How to Conjugate 'Parler' (to Talk) in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate 'Parler' (to Talk) in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).