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Top Tricks to Conjugate Irregular Verbs in French

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Unlike English, French irregular verbs are confusing to understand. Let us teach you the easy way to make sense out of French irregular verbs and how to use them effortlessly!

At the end of this article you will find a quiz to test your knowledge on Irregular Verbs in French → OK take me to the Quiz!

If regular/irregular verbs and their many different conjugation spellings are starting to get confusing, no need to worry! This article makes it easy for you to crack the conjugation of French irregular verbs with great ease.

Understanding French Irregular Verbs

Just as the name suggests, Irregular verbs are those verbs that do not abide by the common rules of conjugation. Some examples of verbs and their patterns for conjugation that do abide by common rules are:

verbs ending in -er : same pattern of change
verbs ending in -ir and -re : same set of rules for conjugation

However, you need to learn the conjugation of Irregular verbs on an individual basis.

But this does not mean that you have to dig into each and every Irregular verb in the French dictionary. There are still rules that apply to common types of Irregular verbs. They can be grouped together, and common conjugation can be done.

Patterns and Tricks to conjugate Irregular Verbs in French:

4 Most Common Irregular Verbs

So, let us start with the 4 most common Irregular Verbs in French. Although these 4 cannot be grouped together and each one of the verbs has its own set of rules when it comes to conjugation, their frequent use in the French language makes them easy to memorize. However, you’ll need to get familiar with them first:

Être (To Be)

A purely irregular verb, être is used frequently and can be considered as an essential verb. The verb also finds its use in forming the passé composé (perfect tense) by acting as an auxiliary. For example: Ne sont‐ils pas partis? (Didn’t they leave?)

Conjugation Their English meaning
Je suis  (I am)
Tu es  (You are)
Il/Elle/On est  (He/She/One is)
Nous sommes  (We are)
Vous êtes  (You are)
Ils/Elles sont (They are)

Avoir (To Have)

Another verb to form the passe composé: Avoir is also rated to be an important verb used as a main auxiliary verb.  For example: J’ai mangé du pain. (I ate some bread).

Conjugation Their English meaning
J’ai (I have)
Tu as You have
Il/elle/on a He/she/it/one has
Nous avons We have
Vous avez You have
Ils/elles ont They have

Aller (To Go)

Aller is used to create the futur proche tense and is an irregular verb. For example: Je vais aller au cinema.(I am going to go to the cinema).

Conjugation Their English meaning
Je vais I go
Tu vas You go
Il/elle/on va He/she/it/one goes
Nous allons We go
Vous allez You go
Ils/elles vont They go

Faire (To Do)

One of the most useful irregular verbs in the French vocabulary, Faire is used in a wide range of situations.
For example:
Je fais mes devoirs rapidement (I do my homework quickly)
Je suis en train de faire mes devoirs rapidement (I am doing my homework quickly.)
faire attention (to be careful/to watch out)
faire le ménage (to do the chores/housework).

Conjugation Their English meaning
Je fais I do
Tu fais You do
Il/elle/on fait He/she/it/one does
Nous faisons We do
Vous faites You do
Ils/elles font They do

Watch the video below to see how irregular verbs are conjugated in the Present Tense:

 

Spelling changing Verbs

Spelling changing verbs are one of the most irritating ones. Widely, these verbs are easily conjugated following the rules that fit their respective infinitive endings .

However, when used with the subject nous and/or vous, the spelling of the conjugated verb changes differently. There may be an extra letter to add, or an accent to add or modify.

Verbs ending with -ger

When these verbs are in the nous form, their spelling tends to differ from other verbs. It is mainly for pronunciation purposes, but you will find that in certain tenses, when verbs such as nager, arranger, changer, corriger, déménager, déranger etc are in their nous form, the ‘e’ that succeeds the letter ‘g’ remains even in its conjugated form. It is simply to maintain the soft ‘g’ sound when pronouncing these verbs.
For example:

Nous nageons (We swim)
Nous déménageons de notre maison(We are moving out of our house)

Accent Omission Verbs

While conjugating these verbs, an accent may need to be modified depending upon the subject. These verbs closely resemble their infinitive forms when conjugated in the nous & vous forms.
For example:

The verb to buy: acheter (verb in infinitive form) J’achète (conjugated in the present simple tense)
The verb to prefer: Préférer (verb in infinitive form) Ils/Elles préfèrent (conjugated in the present simple tense)

Accent Addition Verbs

Unlike accent omission verbs, an accent is added to these types of verbs. Common examples are commencer and effacer. The accent is added in the nous and vous forms.

The verb to start: Commencer (verb in its infinitive form) Nous commençons (conjugated in the present simple tense)
The verb to erase: Effacer (verb in its infinitive form) Nous effaçons (conjugated in the present simple tense)

Keep the “Y” Verbs

Much like the English language, the verbs spelt with a ‘y’ follow the same conversion rule when conjugated: ‘y’ changes to ‘i’. Note: this applies to various different tenses and depends on the personal pronoun the verb is conjugated to.

For example:

The verb to pay: Payer (infinitive form) Tu paies (conjugated in the present simple tense)
The verb to send: Envoyer (infinitive form) Ils/Elles envoient (conjugated in the present simple tense)

Irregular Verbs in the Pouvoir Family

Another complex verb in the French vocabulary is Pouvoir. The verbs in this family aren’t conjugated in an identical way, but you will find that they each have middle vowel pairs when in the je, tu and il/elle/on forms.

For example:

pouvoir (to be able) has the middle vowel pair eu  when conjugated – je peux, tu peux, il/elle/on peut
savoir (to know) has the middle vowel pair ai when conjugated – je sais, tu sais, il/elle/on sait

To make it simple, the je and tu forms are kept the same and only the il/elle/on form changes to end with a “t.” It is also worth noting that when conjugated in the nous and vous forms, these verbs are very similar to their infinitive form.

Pouvoir (To Be Able)

Pouvoir, a common verb, is used along with an infinitive and is an expression of doing something. For example: Je peux chanter (I can sing)

Vouloir (To Want)

Vouloir, a frequent verb, is used with another verb or a noun. For instance: Elle veut du pain (She wants some bread)

Savoir (To Know)

Savoir and connaître are often confused, but they both have a different meaning. Savoir indicates knowing a fact, whereas connaitre means knowing a person or a place for example.

Thus, one would say Vous savez que la tour Eiffel est l’une des Sept Merveilles? (Did you know that the Eiffel tower is one of the seven wonders of the world?)

Irregular Verbs in the Mettre Family

This will be simple to learn as the verbs follow the same rule for conjugation. Moreover, the verbs have meanings that are easy to remember and are very similar to their English counterparts.

Examples:

French verb English meaning
admettre to admit
promettre to promise
permettre to permit
soumettre to submit

Mettre (to put) finds its use in several expressions such as mettre les draps (to set the sheets down).

The pattern is followed by all the verbs in this family.

Irregular Verbs in the Prendre Family

The prendre (to take) family is also conjugated in the same manner. However, the only change is that the letter “d” is used only in the singular forms, whereas in the plural Ils/Elles form it is replaced with an extra “n.”
Some examples:

Apprendre (to learn)-  J’apprends (I am learning) Ils/Elles apprennent (They are learning)
Comprendre (to understand) – Tu comprends (You understand) Ils/Elles comprennent (They understand)
Surprendre (to surprise) – Il surprend (He surprises) Ils/Elles surprennent (They surprise)

Again, you can follow the same conjugation patterns for all the verbs mentioned above.

Irregular Verbs in the Venir Family

These are easy to remember; the verbs in the venir (to come) family have the same rules of conjugation. The only exception is that the nous and vous forms do not have the “ie.”
Some examples include:

Tenir (to hold/to keep) – Je tiens (I am holding) Vous tenez (You are holding)
Obtenir (to obtain) – Tu obtiens (You obtain) Nous obtenons (We obtain)
Devenir (to become) – Il devient (He becomes) Vous devenez (You become)
Appartenir (to belong) – J’appartiens (I belong) Nous appartenons (We belong)

Irregular Verbs in the Partir Family

These verbs are spelt differently from one another, but when it comes to conjugation they follow the same rules. The rule of thumb is to remove the last three letters of the verb in its infinitive form (“tir” or “mir”) and add the appropriate endings. In singular tenses, the conjugations follow a pattern, i.e. “s,” “s,” “t.”

However, when conjugating in the plural forms, you will notice that they are much like the regular -er verbs.

For instance the verb: Partir (to leave) – Je pars pour le bureau à 8 (I leave for the office at 8).
Some other verbs that belong to the same family are sortir (to exit), mentir (to lie), dormir (to sleep) and sentir (to feel).

To sum it all up, most French verbs thankfully follow given rules. Unfortunately, there are some that don’t and these are important to remember in your quest to learn French.
But if you went through this article diligently you’re now aware of most of these verbs, their rules and different uses in the French Language. Amazing isn’t it, how easily we learned one of the most complicated elements of French?

So start practicing, because the more you practice the more you learn and the better you are at conjugating!  For more help and assistance you may connect with our French tutors.

Quiz: Test your knowledge of French Irregular Verbs!

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How to Conjugate Irregular Verbs in French, Top Tricks to Conjugate Irregular Verbs in French

French Irregular Verbs

1 / 6

Vous (avez / ait / avoirez / ont) un gentil chien.

English: You have a nice dog.

2 / 6

Il (a / est / suis / sont) grand.

English: He is tall.

3 / 6

Nous (vont / vons / allont / allons) chez notre grand-mère.

English: We are going to our grandmothers.

4 / 6

Les enfants (font / faisons / faisez / fait) leurs devoirs.

English: The children do their homework.

5 / 6

Ils (lis / lit / lisons / lisent) un magazine.

English: They read a magazine.

6 / 6

Tu (savais / sait / sais / savent) compter jusu’à 100.

English: You know how to count until 100.

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