How to Conjugate the French Verb Tenir

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In French, the verb tenir means "to hold" or "to keep." In its most common form, the verb describes literal physical action, as in, "She holds a suitcase." But you can also use it to express an emotional attachment you have to something, such as a pet or a treasured possession. Tenir can also be used to express causality, much as the phrases "due to" or "because of" do in English, or to indicate the recipient of an action.

Feel free to explore the many more expressions with tenir that are present in everyday French.

Conjugation-wise, despite the fact that tenir ends in -ir, it does not follow the regular conjugation pattern and falls instead into the group of irregular -ir verbsAll French verbs ending in -venir and -tenir are conjugated the same way. Below, you will find the most common conjugations of this frequent verb. It is also important to note that when tenir changes into the pronominal verb se tenir, its auxiliary verb becomes être.

Related Verbs

There are a number of verbs that use tenir as their root and they are conjugated the same way. Verbs that end in venir follow the same conjugation pattern, except that most of them need être as the auxiliary verb. Some of the most common -tenir verbs include:

s'abstenirto refrain, abstain from
appartenirto belong to
contenirto contain
détenir to detain
entretenirto look after, support, foster, keep alive
maintenirto maintain
obtenirto obtain
retenirto retain
soutenirto support

Present Indicative

Je

tiens

Je tiens à vous remercier de vos paroles sincères.

I want to thank you for your sincere words.

Tu

tiens

Si tu tiens parole, tout ira bien.

If you keep your word, everything will be ok.

Il/Elle/On

tient

Elle tient à vous beaucoup.

She cares about you a lot.

Nous

tenons

Nous tenons à vous féliciter pour cette proposition.

Let us congratulate you on your proposal.

Vous

tenez

Sauf erreur, vous tenez à peu près le même discours que moi.

Unless I'm mistaken, you are saying pretty much the same thing that I am.

Ils/Elles

tiennent

Elles tiennent compte de tous les facteurs.

They are aware of all the factors.

Compound Past Indicative

The passé composé is a past tense that can be translated as the simple past or the present perfect. For the verb tenir, it is formed with the auxiliary verb avoir and the past participle tenu​.

J’

ai tenu

J'ai tenu cinq jours d'audiences publiques.

I held five days of public hearings.

Tu

as tenu

Tu as tenu à condamner fermement cet acte de barbarie, et maintenant tu vas faire quoi?

You firmly insisted at condemning this act of barbarism, and what are you going to do now?

Il/Elle/On

a tenu

L'amélioration des résultats a tenu à la demande intérieure.

The improved performance was due to domestic demand.

Nous

avons tenu

Voilà la raison pour laquelle nous avons tenu à nous abstenir.

This is why we felt we had to abstain.

Vous

avez tenu

Si vous avez tenu, c'est uniquement grâce au notre soutien.

You endured only because of our support.

Ils/Elles

ont tenu

Ils ont tenu à lui exprimer leur joie en mettant leur plus beaux costumes.

They wanted to express their happiness by putting on their best suits.

Imperfect Indicative

The imperfect tense is another form of a past tense, but it is used to talk about ongoing or repeated actions in the past. L'imparfait of the verb tenir can be translated to English as "was holding" or "used to hold," although it can sometimes also be translated as the simple "held" or any of its other meanings depending on the context.

Je

tenais

Je tenais à te rencontrer pour discuter la situation présente.

I wanted to meet with you to discuss the situation at hand.

Tu

tenais

Par moments, tu te tenais derrière tes amis, caché devant tout le monde.

There were times when you stood behind your friends, hiding from everyone.

Il/Elle/On

tenait

Elle tenait à demander si un financement avait été prévu.

She wanted to ask if any plans for funding had been set.

Nous

tenions

Nous tenions vraiment à les remercier pour ce qu'ils avaient fait.

We wanted to thank them for their great job.

Vous

teniez

Le caméra que vous teniez vous a sauvé la vie.

The camera you were holding saved your life.

Ils/Elles

tenaient

Ils se tenaient prêts à intervenir en cas de besoin.

They were ready to intervene if needed.

Simple Future Indicative

To talk about the future in English, in most cases we simply add the modal verb "will." In French, however, the future tense is formed by adding different endings to the infinitive.

  

Je

tiendrai

Je tiendrai volontiers compte de cette suggestion.

That is a representation that I am happy to take into account.

Tu

tiendras

Tu tiendras le Conseil informé du progrès.

You will keep the Counsel updated on the progress.

Il/Elle/On

tiendra

J'espère qu"il s'en tiendra au réglement.

I hope he'll stick to the regulations.

Nous

tiendrons

Nous tiendrons nos lecteurs au courant de toutes les nouveautés on reçoit.

We will keep our readers informed of any news we receive.

Vous

tiendrez

Combien de temps pensez-vous que vous tiendrez?

How long do you think you will last?

Ils/Elles

tiendront

Elles tiendront compte de toute observation qui leur sera soumise.

They will take account of any observations submitted to them.

Near Future Indicative

Another form of a future tense is the near future, the futur proche, which is the equivalent of the English "going to + verb." In French, the near future is formed with the present tense conjugation of the verb aller (to go) + the infinitive (tenir).

Je

vais tenir

Je vais tenir le coup aussi longtemps que je peux.

I will overcome for as long as I can.

Tu

vas tenir

J'espere qu'on portera une attention tres particuliere au discours que tu vas tenir.

I hope people will pay particular attention to what you'll say there.

Il/Elle/On

va tenir

Est-ce qu'elle va tenir une demi-heure?

Is she going to stand it for half an hour?

Nous

allons tenir

Nous allons tenir deux discours différents.

We are going to convey two different messages.

Vous

allez tenir

Vous allez vous tenir seulement à la question du contrôle.

You are going to confine yourself only to the question of control.

Ils/Elles

vont tenir

Elles vont tenir une conférence de presse.

They are going to hold a press conference.

Conditional

The conditional mood in French is equivalent to the English "would + verb." Notice that the endings it adds to the infinitive are very similar to those in the imperfect indicative.

Je

tiendrais

Je tiendrais ma promesse.

I will hold my promise.

Tu

tiendrais

Tu nous tiendrais au courant?

You would keep us posted?

Il/Elle/On

tiendrait

Il vous tiendrait informé.

He will keep you informed.

Nous

tiendrions

Nous n'y tiendrions pas deux semaines.

We won't last there for more than two weeks.

Vous

tiendriez

Combien de jours tiendriez-vous là-bas?

How many days would you survive there?

Ils/Elles

tiendraient

Les concours se tiendraient à Hanoï.

The concourses would take place in Hanoi.

Present Subjunctive

The subjunctive mood conjugation of tenir, which comes in after the expression que + person, looks very much like the present indicative and past imperfect.

Que je

tienneIl est temps que je me tienne debout.It's time for me to stand up.

Que tu

tiennesJe veux que tu tiennes ça.I want you to hold this.

Qu'il/elle/on

tienneElles souhaitent qu'elle se tienne bien.They wish that she behaves well.

Que nous

tenionsIls demandent que nous tenions bien notre classe.They request that we have our class under control.

Que vous

teniezIl est naturel que vous teniez à son opinion.It's natural that you value her opinion.

Qu'ils/elles

tiennentIl faut qu'ils tiennent leurs yeux fermés.They need to keep their eyes closed.

Imperative

The imperative mood is used to give commands, both positive and negative. They have the same verb form, but the negative commands include ne...pas, ne...plus, or ne...jamais around the verb.

Positive Commands

Tu

tiens!Tiens! Un Lamborghini!Look! A Lamborghini!

Nous

tenons!Tenons ensemble!We have to stick together!

Vous

tenez!Tenez-vous debout!Stand up!

Negative Commands

Tu

ne tiens pas!Ne tiens pas sa main!Don't hold her hand!

Nous

ne tenons pas!Ne nous tenons pas tranquille!Let's not stay quiet!

Vous

ne tenez pas!Ne tenez pas qu'à moi!Don't depend on me alone!

Present Participle/Gerund

One of the uses of the present participle is to form the gerund (usually preceded by the preposition en), which can be used to talk about simultaneous actions.

Present Participle/Gerund of Tenir

tenantTenant ta main, j'étais très content!I was very happy holding your hand.