Verbs - French Vocabulary


Verbs are words that describe an action, state of being, or occurrence. The usage of verbs in French is quite complex and will take some time to master. This lesson introduces some very common French verbs.

French has four classes of verbs, along with some irregular verbs. In this lesson you'll learn how to conjugate the four classes of verbs, as well as the irregular verbs être, avoir, aller, voir, dire, and vouloir.

Verb Tenses

Present Tense

The present tense of French verbs is used to indicate an ongoing action, habitual action or general state. For example I walk, I am walking, and I do walk are all equivalent to je marche in French.

Past Tense (Passé Composé)

The past tense in spoken French is formed with the verb to have + the past participle of the verb. For example both I walked and I have walked in spoken French is J'ai marché. In French this tense is called the passé composé.

Imperfect Tense

This tense is used to indicate a habitual action in the past or an action in the past that is still occuring. For example I was walking and I used to walk are equivalent to je marchais in French.

Future Tense

The future tense is used to indicate actions that will happen in the future.

Near Future

The near future is used for events that are about to happen, or are happening soon. In English the near future is indicated by using going to. In French it is indicated by using the verb aller. For example, 'I am going to eat' is 'Nous allons manger' in French. Look here to see how aller is conjugated.

Historical Past (Passé Simple)

The historical past is a French verb tense used to indicate that a specific action happened in the past. In French this tense is called the passé simple. This tense is primarily used in written French, especially novels. You should not use this tense when speaking, or in casual writing, but if you plan to read French novels or formal writing, it is helpful to be familiar with it. Go to the section on the passé simple.

Other Tenses

There are other tenses in French as well that are not covered in this lesson. For more information about these tenses see Wikipedia.

Être (To Be)

The verb être is very irregular in French. The following table lists its present, past, imperfect, and future forms.

Present Imperfect Past Future
je suis étais ai été serai
tu es étais as été seras
il, elle, on est était a été sera
nous sommes étions avons été serons
vous êtes étiez avez été serez
ils, elles sont étaient ont été seront

Avoir (To Have)

The verb avoir is also very irregular in French. The following table lists its present, past, imperfect, and future forms.

Present Imperfect Past Future
j' ai avais ai eu aurai
tu as avais as eu auras
il, elle, on a avait a eu aura
nous avons avions avons eu aurons
vous avez aviez avez eu aurez
ils, elles ont avaient ont eu auront
She has an apple.
Elle a une pomme.
The boats have white sails.
Les bateaux ont des voiles blanches.

Aller (To Go)

The verb aller is also very irregular in French. The following table lists its present, past, imperfect, and future forms. Note that the past tense of this verb is formed with être + allé. The past participle allé must also agree in gender and number with the subject.

Present Imperfect Past Future
je vais allais je suis allé irai
tu vas allais es allé iras
il, on va allait est allé ira
elle va allait est allée ira
nous allons allions sommes allés irons
vous allez alliez Vous êtes allés irez
ils vont avaient sont allés iront
elles vont avaient sont allées iront

Regular er Verbs

This is the most common group of French verbs. They follow the form of aimer (to love) as shown in the following table.

Present Imperfect Past Future
je, j' aime aimais ai aimé aimerai
tu aimes aimais as aimé aimeras
il, elle, on aime aimait a aimé aimera
nous aimons aimions avons aimé aimerons
vous aimez aimiez avez aimé aimerez
ils, elles aiment aimaient ont aimé aimeront

The following table shows some common er verbs.

arriver arrive, happen
chanter sing
chercher look for
commencer begin
demander ask for
détester hate
donner give
fermer close
jouer play
laver wash
manger eat
nager swim
parler talk
passer pass
penser think
porter wear, carry
regarder watch, look at
sembler seem
travailler work
trouver find
visiter visit
voler fly, steal
Elias swims in the lake.
Lucas nage dans le lac.

Regular ir Verbs

The ir verbs follow the form of finir (to finish) as shown in the following table.

Present Imperfect Past Future
je, j' finis finissais ai fini finirai
tu finis finissais as fini finiras
il, elle, on finit finissais a fini finira
nous finissons finissions avons fini finirons
vous finissez finissiez avez fini finirez
ils, elles finissent finissaient ont fini finiront

The following table shows some common ir verbs.

accomplir accomplish
avertir warn
choisir choose
convertir convert
nourrir feed
remplir fill

Regular re Verbs

The re verbs follow the form of vendre (to sell) as shown in the following table.

Present Imperfect Past Future
je, j' vends vendais ai vendu vendrai
tu vends vendais as vendu vendras
il, elle, on vend vendait a vendu vendra
nous vendons vendions avons vendu vendrons
vous vendez vendiez avez vendu vendrez
ils, elles vendent vendaient ont vendu vendront

The following table shows some common re verbs.

attendre wait for, expect
défendre defend
descendre descend
entendre hear
perdre lose
rendre give back, return
répondre answer
vendre sell

More Irregular Verbs

There are many irregular verbs in French, including some very common verbs. This section includes some of these verbs.

Dire (To Say)

Present Imperfect Past Future
je dis disais ai dit dirai
tu dis disais as dit diras
il, elle, on dit disait a dit dira
nous disons disions avons dit dirons
vous dites disiez avez dit direz
ils, elles disent disaient ont dit diront

Dormir (To Sleep)

Present Imperfect Past Future
je dors dormais ai dormi dormirai
tu dors dormais as dormi dormiras
il, elle, on dort dormait a dormi dormira
nous dormons dormions avons dormi dormirons
vous dormez dormiez avez dormi dormirez
ils, elles dorment dormaient ont dormi dormiront
Sleeping Cat
Le chat dort.

Voir (To See)

Present Imperfect Past Future
je vois voyais ai vu verrai
tu vois voyais as vu verras
il, elle, on voit voyait a vu verra
nous voyons voyions avons vu verrons
vous voyez voyiez avez vu verrez
ils, elles voient voyaient ont vu verront

Vouloir (To Want)

Present Imperfect Past Future
je veux voulais ai voulu voudrai
tu veux voulais as voulu voudras
il, elle, on veut voulait a voulu voudra
nous voulons voulions avons voulu voudrons
vous voulez vouliez avez voulu voudrez
ils, elles veulent voulaient ont voulu voudront



Here are some flashcards to help you learn the French verbs included in this lesson.

Passé Simple

The passé simple is used in novels and formal writing to indicate a specific event that happened in the past. In spoken French this is replaced by the passé composé.

Regular -er verbs

je parlai
tu parlas
il, elle, on parla
nous parlâmes
vous parlâtes
ils, elles parlèrent

Regular -ir and -re verbs

je partis
tu partis
il, elle, on partit
nous partîmes
vous partîtes
ils, elles partirent

Être (To Be)

je fus
tu fus
il, elle, on fut
nous fûmes
vous fûtes
ils, elles fures

Avoir (To Have)

j' eus
tu eus
il, elle, on eut
nous eûmes
vous eûtes
ils, elles eures


"Qu'as-tu donc?", demanda-t-il. "What have you got?", he asked.
La nuit se passa sans que le moindre bruit se fît entendre. The night passed without any sound being heard.
Edmond sentit se dresser ses cheveux sur sa tête, et il recula sur ses genoux. Edmond felt his hair stand on his head, and he drew back on his knees.
Ils se regardèrent les uns les autres d'un air effaré. They looked at one another with a startled look.