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    The French Verb Forms Explained Once and for All

    French Verb forms are the way you form sentences to talk about the present, past or future. At a glance, the forms might seem complicated but with practice, it becomes simpler to understand their pattern. So, let’s dive into a fun and quick learning venture into this aspect of French grammar. The basics have been explained in such a way you can fit the definitions in your pocket!

    The French Verb Forms Explained Once and for All
    By Michelle
    3 months ago

    French Grammar French Lessons

    The French Verb Forms Explained Once and for All

French Verb Form 1: L’infinitif (Infinitive)

The base with which you make any tense of a verb is its infinitive form. This is when the word is unconjugated like ‘parler‘ is the infinitive form.

J’espère partir à midi (I am hoping to leave at noon)

French Verb Form 2: L’indicatif (Indicative)

Your general French conversations will have many common tenses which come under this category. This branches out further into other concepts. Let’s go through the indicative verb forms for a better understanding:

1. Past Forms

Passé Composé

The purpose of this tense is to talk about an action that has occurred in the past, is incomplete or continuing.
J’ai entendu la musique à la radio (I heard the music on the radio)

Passé Simple

It’s similar to the previous component except it’s used in more formal situations.
Tu voyageais? (You travelled?)


Use this to describe actions that are on repeat, continued, incomplete or occur habitually.
Nous finissions notre nourriture quand le téléphone a sonné (We were finishing our food when the phone rang)

Passé antérieur (Past Anterior)

Although rarely used in conversations, the literary texts are made more refined through the use of this tense.
Si seulement elle avait participé (If only she had participated…)

Le plus-que-parfait (Past Perfect)

This is employed when talking about an action that occurs before another one.
Si seulement elle avait participé, ils auraient vu son talent  (If only she had participated, they would have seen her talent)

2. Present Form

Présent (Present Tense)

Whether you talk about facts, actions that are repeated or an event that is currently happening, the present form is used.
Elle prend ses propres photos (She takes her own photos)

3. Future Form

Futur (Future Tense)

Any action that has the possibility of occurring in the future, is spoken about, through this concept.
J’étudierai une fois mon ami parti (I will study once my friend leaves)

Le futur antérieuer (Future Anterior)

If we know that a certain action will be completed at a set time in the coming future, we use this tense to talk about it.
Quand il aura vu ses parents, il se sentira mieux (When he sees his parents, he will feel better)

French Verb Form 3: Le participle present (Present Participle)

Observing from English, all the ‘ing’ words are part of the French Verb form – Le participle present.

Elle lisait en mangeant (She read while eating)

French Verb Form 4: L’impératif (Imperative)

If you have a command to express, imperative mood is your ideal choice. However, in this form, only the tu, nous, vous forms of verbs are used.

Prenons un taxi! (Let’s take a taxi!)

French Verb Form 5: Le conditionnel (Conditional)

When talking about an idea or opinion that depends on a ‘condition’, this verb form is employed.

1. Past Form

Le passé première forme (The first form)

Sometimes there are situations that could have happened in the past but due to some reasons, it didn’t.
Nous serions sortis si nous n’avions pas cours  (We would have gone out if we did not have class)

Le passé deuxième forme (The second form)

This form mostly appears in literature. Pick up a novel in French and try finding this tense. The definition is similar to the first form above.
Si je l’eu su, je ne l’aurais pas pris différemment  (If I had known, I would not have taken it differently)

2. Present Form

Le present

Setting a condition in the past that ‘could be’.
Elle achèterait si elle pouvait (She would buy if she could)

French Verb Form 6: Le subjonctif (Subjunctive)

Emotions and opinions have a grammar of their own in French. Remember from the ‘sub’ that these are mostly within the subordinate clause and the hint to identify them in French is to look for ‘que’ (that/which).

1. Past Forms

Passé of subjunctive

For an action that has already happened.
Elle est ravie que tu sois venu à la fête (She’s delighted that you came to the party)

Imparfait of subjunctive

An action that has been commanded or has to happen is described with this tense. This is rarely used.
Il fallait qu’elle lui parlât (It was necessary that she speak to him)

Plus-que-parfait of subjunctive

Another aspect that’s rarely used but doesn’t hurt to know especially if you are a literature enthusiast.
J’eusse aimé te voir (I would have liked to see you)

2. Present Form

Expressing an emotion of judgement in the present.

Nous voulons qu’il soit heureux (We want him to be happy)

Now that you have the power of verb forms in your hands, put it to good use through diving deeper into each. For any other help and guidance, you may also connect to our French tutors. See you next chapter!


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