Learn How to Conjugate the Verb "Penser" (to Think)

Simple Conjugations of a Very Useful French Verb

One moment more
It's easy to conjugate the French verb, "to think.". ronaldregidor / Getty Images

The French verb penser is an important word to know because it means "to think." You will use it quite often when you speak French, so it's a good idea to study and memorize the verb's conjugations. This lesson will demonstrate how to do that and form the present, past, and future tenses of penser.

The Basic Conjugations of Penser

Verb conjugations in French are the equivalent of adding an -ing ending in English to forms words like "thinking." We must first identify the verb stem—for penser that is pens- —then add the appropriate ending to match the subject pronoun and tense of the subject.

French students will be happy to know that penser is a regular -er verb. It follows the most common conjugation pattern found in French. If you've studied similar words like passer (to pass) or demander (to ask), then this lesson will be easier because it applies the same endings.

In the simplest form, this is done in the indicative mood for the present, future, and imperfect past tenses. These are the forms of penser that you will use most often, so "I am thinking" is je pense and "we will think" is nous penserons.

To help you commit these to memory, try using the conjugation in simple sentences. If you need some ideas, there are plenty of common phrases that use penser.

Present Future Imperfect
je pense penserai pensais
tu penses penseras pensais
il pense pensera pensait
nous pensons penserons pensions
vous pensez penserez pensiez
ils pensent penseront pensaient

The Present Participle of Penser

The present participle of penser is pensant. Notice how this was formed by simply adding -ant to the verb stem.

Penser in the Past Tense

The past tense can of penser is expressed with either the imperfect or the passé composé. To form the latter, you will construct a short phrase using the auxiliary verb avoir and the past participle pensé.

For example, "I thought" is j'ai pensé and "we thought" is nous avons pensé. Look carefully and you'll notice that the only conjugation needed was avoir in the present tense and that the past participle pensé doesn't change.

More Simple Conjugations of Penser

Consider the conjugations above to be your top priority when studying penser. When you're comfortable with those, add these other simple conjugations to your vocabulary. 

Each of these has a specific purpose. For example, the subjunctive expresses uncertainty in the action of thinking while the conditional says that something else must happen in order to think. The other two verb forms—the passé simple and imperfect subjunctive—are used more often in formal French, but they are good to know.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé Simple Imperfect Subjunctive
je pense penserais pensai pensasse
tu penses penserais pensas pensasses
il pense penserait pensa pensât
nous pensions penserions pensâmes pensassions
vous pensiez penseriez pensâtes pensassiez
ils pensent penseraient pensèrent pensassent

You will use the imperative form of penser when saying direct and very short commands such as "Think!" When doing so, there's no need to include the subject pronoun. Simply say "Pense !"

(tu) pense
(nous) pensons
(vous) pensez
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Team, ThoughtCo. "Learn How to Conjugate the Verb "Penser" (to Think)." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, thoughtco.com/penser-to-think-1370624. Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). Learn How to Conjugate the Verb "Penser" (to Think). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/penser-to-think-1370624 Team, ThoughtCo. "Learn How to Conjugate the Verb "Penser" (to Think)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/penser-to-think-1370624 (accessed June 7, 2023).