How to Conjugate "Retourner" (To Return) in French

A Brief Lesson in a Simple Verb Conjugation

A woman sealing a box with tape in order to return it
Preparing a box to return it by mail. manonallard/Getty Images

The French verb retourner is one of seven ways to say "to return" in French. It's a very useful word and easy to remember because it looks and sounds like its English equivalent. It is also based on the French tourner, which means "to turn."

Yet, before you use it in grammatically correct sentences, you'll need to learn its conjugations. This lesson will introduce you to the most basic of those.

The Basic Conjugations of Retourner

Retourner is a regular -er verb, so it follows the same conjugation pattern as the majority of French verbs. That does make it significantly easier than most French verb conjugations, especially if you've already studied similar verbs like donner (to give), arriver (to arrive), or countless other words.

It's always best to begin with the indicative mood when studying a new verb. This will allow you to use it in the present, future, and imperfect past tenses and these should cover almost any use you may have.

Using the verb stem (or radical) retourn- and the chart, you can learn which endings to add that are appropriate to both the subject pronoun and the tense of your sentence. For example, "I am returning" is je retourne and "we will return" is nous retournerons. Practice these in context whenever "returning" something and you'll find them much easier to memorize.

Present Future Imperfect
je retourne retournerai retournais
tu retournes retourneras retournais
il retourne retournera retournait
nous retournons retournerons retournions
vous retournez retournerez retourniez
ils retournent retourneront retournaient

The Present Participle of Retourner

When you add -ant to the verb's radical, you form the present participle retournant. Not only is it a verb, it may also be an adjective, gerund, or noun in some circumstances.

Retournerin the Compound Past Tense

A common way to express the past tense of "returned" is with the passé composé. This is a compound, which means you need the auxiliary verb être as well as the past participle retourné.

To form this, begin by conjugating être into the present tense, then attach the past participle to indicate that someone or something has already returned. For example, "I returned" is je suis retourné and "we returned" is nous sommes retourné.

More Simple Conjugations

While the conjugations above should be your first priority, you may need to use retourner in other simple forms. Each of these has special usages, from questioning the act with the subjunctive to saying its dependent on something else with the conditional. The passé simple and the imperfect subjunctive are literary tenses, though they're also good to know.

Subjunctive Conditional Passé Simple Imperfect Subjunctive
je retourne retournerais retournai retournasse
tu retournes retournerais retournas retournasses
il retourne retournerait retourna retournât
nous retournions retournerions retournâmes retournassions
vous retourniez retourneriez retournâtes retournassiez
ils retournent retourneraient retournèrent retournassent

Exclamations such as "Return!" use the imperative form in French. When using these, the subject pronoun is not required, so you can simplify it to "Retourne !"

(tu) retourne
(nous) retournons
(vous) retournez
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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate "Retourner" (To Return) in French." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How to Conjugate "Retourner" (To Return) in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate "Retourner" (To Return) in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).