How to Conjugate "Protéger" (to Protect) in French

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You will use the French verb protéger when you want to say "to protect." The verb conjugation is required if you want to use it for the past tense "protected" or the future tense "will protect." This word has a couple of tricks to it, but a lesson in its simplest conjugations will explain everything you need to know.

The Basic Conjugations of Protéger

Protéger is both a stem-changing and spelling change verb. While that may seem scary at first, both issues have a purpose and are relatively easy to handle.

The stem change occurs with the accented é in protéger. You will notice that in some forms—the present tense, in particular—the accent changes to an è. You will also notice that the future tense gives you the option between the stem changes. Pay attention to this while studying so you can spell it correctly when needed. 

The stem change pops up in the regular -er conjugations where the ending begins with an a or o. For these, the e is retained to ensure the g has a soft pronunciation as it does in "gel." Without the e, the vowels would make it a hard sound as in "gold."

The indicative mood and the basic present, future, and imperfect past tenses are covered in this first chart. These should be your top priority to memorize because you'll use them most often. All you need to do is pair the subject pronoun with the corresponding tense to learn which endings to use. For example, je protége means "I am protecting" and nous protégions means "we protected."

Present Future Imperfect
je protège protégerai
tu protèges protégeras
il protège protégera
nous protégeons protégerons
vous protégez protégerez
ils protègent protégeront

The Present Participle of Protéger

The spelling change is also required in the present participle of protéger because of the -ant ending. The result is the word protégeant.

Protéger in the Compound Past Tense

Another way to express the past tense in French is with the passé composé. This requires both the past participle protégé and the present tense conjugate of the auxiliary verb avoir. For example, "I protected" is j'ai protége and "we protected" is nous avons protégé.

More Simple Conjugations of Protéger

Once again, you'll find some spelling and stem changes in the following conjugations. Also, the conditional—used for "if...then" situations—offers the option between the accented e's. However, if you pay careful attention to those things, these forms of protéger can be quite useful.

The subjunctive, for instance, allows you to call the act of protecting into question. When reading or writing French, you'll likely encounter the passé simple or the imperfect subjunctive because these are literary tenses.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé Simple Imperfect Subjunctive
je protège protégerais
protégeai protégeasse
tu protèges protégerais
protégeas protégeasses
il protège protégerait
protégea protégeât
nous protégions protégerions
protégeâmes protégeassions
vous protégiez protégeriez
protégeâtes protégeassiez
ils protègent protégeraient
protégèrent protégeassent

The French imperative may be useful for a verb like protéger. It's used for short and assertive statements, and when you use it, there's no need to include the subject pronoun. 

(tu) protège
(nous) protégeons
(vous) protégez
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ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate "Protéger" (to Protect) in French." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, ThoughtCo. (2020, August 27). How to Conjugate "Protéger" (to Protect) in French. Retrieved from ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate "Protéger" (to Protect) in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 22, 2021).