How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Prendre'

Couple looking at French pastries through window
Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images

Prendre, which commonly means "to take," is a frequently used and very flexible irregular French -re verb. In order to use it to mean "I took" or "we are taking," you'll need to know how to conjugate it. The good news is that prendre can help you learn similar verbs.

As you learn how to form those conjugations in this lesson, you'll also need to take a look at the different meanings of prendre and a few common expressions it's used in.

"Prendre" Is the Model for an Irregular "-re" Verb Subgroup

There are patterns for irregular French -re verbs, and prendre is in one of those groups. In fact, all verbs ending in the root word -prendre are conjugated the same way. These verbs drop the "d" in all three plural forms and take a double "n" in the third person plural. 

This means that after you learn the conjugations for prendre, you can apply what you learned to conjugate these other verbs:

  • Apprendre > to learn
  • Comprendre > to understand
  • Eentreprendre > to undertake
  • Méprendre > to mistake
  • Reprendre > to retake, take again
  • Surprendre > to surprise

Simple Conjugations of "Prendre"

Below are the most important and simplest conjugations of prendre, and all verbs that share its conjugation. It does not include conjugations of the compound forms of prendre, though. However, you can study those after learning the basics here.

This first chart should be your priority when learning how to conjugate predre. They are the indicative moods and you will use them most often. All you need to do is pair the subject pronoun with the appropriate tense. For instance, "I take" is je prends and "we will take" is nous prenions. Practicing these in short sentences will help you commit them to memory.

Present Futur Imperfect
je prends prendrai prenais
tu prends prendras prenais
il prend prendra prenait
nous prenons prendrons prenions
vous prenez prendrez preniez
ils prennent prendront prenaient

The present participle of prendre is prenant.

The passé composé of prendre is formed using the auxiliary verb avoir and the past participle pris. For example, "we took" is nous avons pris.

More Basic Conjugations

There are a few more basic verb conjugations you may need to know for prendre, though they are less common than those above. You will use the subjunctive or the conditional verb moods whenever the action of "taking" is uncertain. The passè simple and imperfect subjunctive are formal and most often found in writing.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé Simple Imperfect Subjunctive
je prenne prendrais pris prisse
tu prennes prendrais pris prisses
il prenne prendrait prit prît
nous prenions prendrions prîmes prissions
vous preniez prendriez prîtes prissiez
ils prennent prendraient prirent prissent

When using prendre in the imperative to express a command, you can skip the subject pronoun. For instance, use prends rather than tu prends.

Imperative
(tu) prends
(nous) prenons
(vous) prenez

The Many Meanings of "Prendre"

In use, prendre usually means "to take," both literally and figuratively.

  • Il m'a pris par le bras. > He took me by the arm.Tu peux le prendre dans le tiroir. > You can take it out of the drawer.
  • Je vais prendre une photo. > I'm going to take a picture.
  • Prenez votre temps. > Take your time.

Prendre is such a flexible verb that it can change meanings based on the context. For instance, prendre can mean "to come over" or "to strike":

  • La colère m'a pris. > I was overcome with anger.
  • Qu'est-ce qui te prend ? (informal) > What's come over you? What's the matter with you?

Prendre may also mean "to catch" in instances such as:

  • Je l'ai pris à tricher. > I caught him cheating.

There are times when prendre will take on the meaning of "to take in," "to dupe," or "to fool":

  • On ne m'y prendra plus! > They won't fool me again!

You may also use prendre when you want to say "to handle" or "to deal with":

  • Il y a plusieurs moyens de prendre le problème. > There are several ways to deal with the problem.

One of your options for saying "to set" is a form of prendre:

  • Le ciment n'a pas encore pris. > The cement hasn't set yet. 

When you want to say "to do well," "to catch on," or "to be successful" you can also turn to prendre:

  • Ce livre va prendre. > This book is going to be a great success.

Sometimes, prendre can even mean "to catch" or "to start":

  • J'espère que le bois va prendre. >  I hope the wood catches on fire.

Finally, prendre can also mean "to pick up" or "to fetch," especially when used with another verb:

  • Passe me prendre à midi. > Come (by and) pick me up at noon.
  • Peux-tu me prendre demain ? > Can you pick me up tomorrow?

Using "Se Prendre"

The pronominal se prendre has several meanings as well.

  • To consider oneself: Il se prend pour un expert. > He thinks he's an expert.
  • To get caught, trapped: Ma manche s'est prise dans la porte. > My sleeve got caught in the door.

You may also use s'en prendre à, which means "to blame," "to challenge," or "to attack":

  • Tu ne peux t'en prendre qu'à toi-même. >  You only have yourself to blame.
  • Il s'en est pris à son chien. > He took it out on his dog.

Similarly, the construction s'y prendre à means "to do something about it":

  • Il faut s'y prendre. - We have to do something about it. We have to take care of it.

Expressions With "Prendre"

There are many idiomatic expressions using the French verb prendre. Among the most common are these which you can use to practice your prendre conjugations.

  • Prendre sa retraite > to retire
  • Prendre une décision > to make a decision
  • Prendre un pot (informal) > to have a drink
  • Qu'est-ce qui t'a pris ? > What's gotten into you?
  • Être pris > to be tied up, busy