The vast majority of verbs in french are regular and, therefore, belong to one of the three aforementioned groups (i.e. -er verbs, -ir verbs, -re verbs).
Some verbs contain slight exceptions to the regular present tense pattern. These verbs manifest an irregular pattern in their stem when used in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular of the present tense (je, tu, il / elle / on) and the 3rd person plural (ils / elles) in one of three ways:
1. Double consonants- for certain verbs, the consonant doubles when found between two vowels
|Appeler – to call||j’appelle|
Similar verbs include: épeler (to spell),jeter (to throw),rejecter (to reject),renouveller (to renew)
2. y changes to i - the letter ‘y’ changes to ‘i’ for verbs ending in -ayer, -oyer and -uyer.
|Essayer – to try||j’essaie|
Similar verbs include: employer (to use), s’ennuyer (to become bored), essuyer (to wipe), nettoyer (to clean), se noyer (to drown), payer (to pay).
3. Changes in accent
- Accent aigu becomes accent grave (é - è)
|Compléter – to complete||je complète|
|nous complé tons|
Similar verbs include: céder (to give up, yield to), exagérer (to exaggerate), excéder (to exceed), s’inquiéter (to worry), libérer (to liberate), posséder (to possess), préférer (to prefer), protéger (to protect), répéter (to repeat), sécher (to dry), suggérer (to suggest), tolérer (to tolerate)
Nota Bene: There is no accent change in the future and the conditional tenses e.g. je compléterai(s)
-Accent grave is added
|Acheter – to buy||j’achète|
Similar verbs include: achever (to complete), amener (to bring), crever (to burst, puncture), emmener (to take away), geler (to freeze), peser (to weigh), se promener (to take a walk), ramener (to bring back).
Nota Bene: The accent grave is also added in the future and the conditional tenses e.g. j’achèterai(s)
-er verbs expressing irregularity in the 2nd person nous form
Other regular -er verbs manifest an irregularity in the 2nd person plural nous form by adding an ‘e’ or replacing c with ç (in order to keep the same pronunciation).
1. Verbs ending in -cer
|Commencer – to start||je commence|
Similar verbs include: avancer (to advance), forcer (to force), lancer (to throw, launch)
2. Verbs ending in -ger
|Manger – to eat||je mange|
Similar verbs include: bouger (to move), partager (to share), protéger (to protect), voyager (to travel).
Exceptional regular -ir verbs
A small but common group of -ir verbs take the endings of -er verbs in the present tense
|Ouvrir – to open||j’ouvre|
Similar verbs include: acceuillir (to welcome), découvrir (to discover), ceuillir (to pick), couvrir (to cover), offrir (to offer), souffrir (to suffer).
Many frequently-used french verbs are irregular in the present tense. Some irregular verbs follow a certain pattern, either because they are compound forms of other irregular verbs (e.g. battre – combattre) or because they share the same suffix (paraître, connaître).
Meaning and Uses of the Present Tense
- There is only one form of the Present Tense in French, where as English has three:
|1 Form in French||3 Forms in English|
|L’etudiant travaille dur||The student works hard|
|The student is working hard|
|The student does work hard|
- être en train de + infinitive
The expression conveys the idea of ‘to be in the process of’
e.g. La Caraïbe est en train de se développer , which means, The Caribbean is being developed.
- The present tense can also be used in storytelling to convey past meaning to make events more immediate:
Huit heures ce matin, un chauffeur de bus ivre fait deux morts et six blessés sur la route , which means, Eight o’clock this morning, a drunk bus driver killed two and injured six on the road.
- The present tense is also used in the following special constructions:
J’apprends le français depuis cing ans , which means , I have been learning French for 5 years.
Ll y a deux ans que je me prepare pour l’ examen , which means , I have been preparing for 2 years for the exam.
Je viens de manger des accras , which means , I just ate some saltfish fritters.