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French Present Tense 101: What You Should Know

Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a pro to master the French present tense. Yes, the list of French verbs seems long but you’d be surprised just how easy it is to learn how to conjugate them in the present tense. All you need is to get the hang of the conjugation patterns and you’re all set!

Sounds too simple? Have a quick read through our article and you’ll soon see what we mean!

At the end of this article you’ll find a quiz to test your knowledge on French Present Tense → OK, take me to the Quiz!

Let’s walk through the basics first:

Common Uses of  the French Present Tense

You won’t go very far in French without the present tense. It’s important to note that it’s not just for talking about what’s happening right now.

Some common uses include talking about:

  • Feelings
  • What’s going on right now
  • Habits
  • Facts
  • Events in the near future

French Present Tense 2

Present Tense UsesDescriptionExamples
What’s going on +
feelings
You can use the French present tense to talk about what is happening, for example, that you are cooking spaghetti, or any other activity occurring as you speak. It works like the English present tense or the present progressive, which uses the -ing form.Qu’est-ce que tu écris ? J’écris une lettre.
What are you writing? I’m writing a letter.
Habits + factsWhenever you are talking about habits, facts and universal truths, use the French present tense.Quel genre de livres lis-tu ? J’aime beaucoup la science-fiction.
What kind of books you read? I really like scientific fiction.
Events in the near futureYou can also use the French present tense to talk about any event that is going to happen in the next hours, days or maybe even weeks. You must however add a time descriptor, such as demain (tomorrow), lundi (Monday) or la semaine prochaine (next week).Je vais à l’université à partir de demain.
I’ll be going to college starting tomorrow.

The video below is a great introduction to common regular verbs in the present tense:

Types of French Verbs

To conjugate verbs in the French present tense, you first need to know about the different types of verbs. There are two types of verbs in French: regular and irregular.

1. Regular verbs

Regular verbs are easy to learn since they follow a fixed conjugation pattern. There are three different types of regular verbs:

Verbs ending in:

-er
-ir
-re

Regular Verbs With an -er Ending

About 90% of French verbs end in -er.

And once you know how they work, you’ll be able to conjugate almost all French verbs. The rule for these is easy: drop the -er ending and replace it with one of the following endings:

-e, -es, -e, -ons, -ez, or -ent

Example:
Parler (to speak)

French Present Tense 1

je parlenous parlons
tu parlesvous parlez
il/elle/on parleils/elles parlent

 

Regular Verbs With an -ir Ending

These account for approximately 5% of French verbs. They too follow a pattern, except for a few that are irregular.

For these verbs, drop the -ir ending and replace it with one of the following endings:

-is, -is, -it, -issons, -issez, or -issent.

Example:
Finir (to finish)

je finis nous finissons
tu finis vous finissez
il/elle/on finit       ils/elles finissent

Regular Verbs With an -re Ending

The endings of regular -re verbs follow a similar pattern. Drop the -re ending and replace it with one of the following endings:

-s, -s, -ons, -ez, or -ent

Note: regular -re verbs conjugated in the il/elle/on form lose the -re ending too, however nothing replaces it.

Example:
Vendre (to sell)

je vends nous vendons
tu vends vous vendez
il/elle/on vend      ils/elles vendent

What about the complicated French irregular verbs?

Irregular French verbs enjoy special treatment, it’s important that you pay individual attention to each one. It’s best to start off with learning the most common ones.

 

Here are some you’ll come across the most:

Avoir Être Aller Faire
j’ai je suis je vais je fais
tu as tu es tu vas tu fais
il/elle/on a il/elle/on est il/elle/on va il/elle/on fait
nous avons nous sommes nous allons nous faisons
vous avez vous êtes vous allez vous faites
ils/elles ont        ils/elles sont          ils/elles vont            ils/elles font     

Tips to Remember

There’s no way around it: if you want to speak French, you simply have to learn the present tense. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend your days reciting conjugation tables! Here are our pro tips to help you learn the French present tense conjugation fast:

  1. At the beginning, focus most of your learning on the regular patterns of -er, -ir and -re verbs. Once you are familiar with them, conjugating will become considerably easier.
  2. Try not to get too overwhelmed by irregular verbs. Once you know your way around regular verbs the irregular ones won’t seem so daunting; we promise! The most common ones are a great start though, and you’ll soon see just how handy they are.

And that brings us to the end of our guide on the French present tense. As with everything, practice makes perfect and learning this tense is no different. But if you are finding it tricky, don’t hesitate to connect with our French tutors for help.

See you next lesson!

Quiz: Test your knowledge of French Present Tense!

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French Present Tense, French Present Tense 101: What You Should Know

French Present Tense

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How do you say “You are selling your car.” ?

2 / 9

Pick the best translation for: "The cats ask for food."

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Pick the best translation for: "Jérémie loves flowers”

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“Ils sont ensembles depuis trois mois.” means :

5 / 9

“Vous habitez à Lyon depuis plus de six ans.” means :

6 / 9

“Elle se repose maintenant.” means

7 / 9

What does "Je vais chez ma tante demain." mean ?

8 / 9

«Nous allons visiter le Louvres aujourd’hui» means :

9 / 9

"Il ne pratique plus de sport depuis 2009." means :

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