French Conjugation


Did you know that French conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a French verb from its principal parts by inflection?. French verbs can be inflicted differently depending on 5 different factors: person, number, mood, tense and voice. The primary factor to take in consideration when conjugating a verb in French is mood. There are six different types of mood in French, and from all of these, the indicative is the most common (the others are conditional, subjunctive, imperative, infinitive, and participle).

Said mood contains 8 possible tenses –tense being indeed the second most important factor when it comes to conjugation-, ranging from the past perfect, the pluperfect, the simple past, the “passé composé” and the past imperfective (the last two being the most widely-used in casual speech); to the present tense; to the simple and perfect future tenses. The third major element altering verb conjugation in French is voice, which can be active, passive or pronominal.

In this section, we will explain the most common possible conjugations, all of them in the indicative mood/active voice:

1. PASSÉ COMPOSÉ:The most popular past tense in French; it might be considered an equivalent to the English present perfect tense, which is also constructed by integrating an auxiliary verb in the present with the past participle of the main action that wants to be expressed. This tense is employed to talk about completed actions. “Avoir” (have) is the auxiliary verb in charge of accompanying the great majority of past participles in the passé compose; nevertheless, the verb “être” is also used for a number of actions (including to enter, to arrive, to return, to fall, to descend, to stay, to be born, to die, and to leave, among others).

Examples:


(Using “avoir”) (Using “être”)
J'ai étudié (I have studied). Il est venu (He has come).
Nous avons étudié (We have studied). Elles sont arrivés (They have arrived).
Elle a cuit (She has cooked). Tu es revenu (You have come back).


2. PAST IMPERFECTIVE: This tense describes habitual actions, unaltered factors such as time or weather, and events of an unspecified duration in the past, among the most important things. The “parfait” (as it is known in its original language) is formed by replacing the termination of most verbs with: “-ais”, in the case of the first and second person (singular); “-ait”, in the case of the third person (also singular); “-ions” for the first person in plural; “-iez” for the second person in plural; and “-aient” for the third person (also in plural).

Examples:

  • Je parlais avec mon père hier soir.
  • I talked to my father last night.

  • Quand elle était jeune, elle a étudiait au collège.
  • When she was young, she studied at the university).

  • L'année dernière, vous mangeais plus de fruits.
  • Last year, you ate more fruit).

3. PRESENT: The present tense is used to talk about current or habitual actions, general facts . it is also used informally, to refer to actions that are about to happen (within a very short period of time).

Examples:

  • Ma grand-mère va à l'église tous les dimanches.
  • My grandmother goes to church every Sunday.

  • Ils marchent lentement.
  • They walk slowly.

  • La France est un beau pays.
  • France is a beautiful country).

4. FUTURE: The future tense is used when referring to events that are yet to take place in time. It is formed by adding the correspondent termination to the basic action, according to the person that is carrying it out: “-ai”, for the equivalent of the English person “I”; “-as”, for the equivalent of the English person “you” (singular); “-a”, for the equivalent of the third person singular in English; “-ons”, for the equivalent of the English person “we”; “-iez” for the equivalent of the English person “you” (plural); and “-aient” for for the equivalent of the third person plural in English.

Examples:

  • Nous mangeons ce soir pâtes
  • We will eat pasta tonight

  • J'appellai mon frère.
  • I will call my brother).

  • Ils organisont une fête.
  • They will organize a party).

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