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A Basic Guide to French Tenses (karma: 21)
By AllemandePremium member Comments: 1341, member since Wed Feb 15, 2006
On Sun Oct 29, 2006 05:51 PM
Edited by MapleWalnut (151648) on 2006-10-29 17:58:57 Fixing Errors
Edited by MapleWalnut (151648) on 2006-10-29 18:04:51 And more errors...
Edited by MapleWalnut (151648) on 2006-10-29 18:31:40 and some more...
Made sticky by Theresa (28613) on 2006-11-13 18:59:25

I know that a lot of people on here are studying French so I thought I'd post a basic guide to differentiating between all of the past, present, and future tenses.

PASSÉ SIMPLE
This literary tense is used primarily in historical reporting or writing of a formal nature. Many stories, prose selections, and novels are written in this tense. The passé simple is a one-word verb form used in formal writing where the passé composé is normally used in spoken French.

Note: Passé Simple is never used in spoken French; it is used primarily in written works

Regular Formation of the Passé Simple:
All verbs where infinitives end in -er form the passé simple from the infinitive stem by adding the following endings.
Je ai
Tu as
Il/elle a
Nous âmes
Vous âtes
Ils/elles èrent

Example:
donner
Je donnai
Tu donnas
Il/elle donna
Nous donnâmes
Vous donnâtes
Ils/elles donnèrent

All regular -ir and -re verbs add the following endings to the infinitive stem.
Je is
Tu is
Il/elle it
Nous îmes
Vous îtes
Ils/elles irent

Example:
finir
Je finis
Tu finis
Il/elle finit
Nous finîmes
Vous finîtes
Ils/elles finirent

Irregular Formation of the Passé Simple:
Irregular -ir verbs (except courir, mourir, tenir, venir, and their compounds) form the passé simple with the same endings as regular -ir verbs.

Example:
ouvrir
J'ouvris
Tu ouvris
Il/elle ouvrit
Nous ouvrîmes
Vous ouvîtes
Ils/elles ouvrirent

Many irregular -re verbs form the passé simple by adding the regular -ir verb endings to the plural "nous" stem.

Example:
écrire
J'écrivis
Tu écrivis
Il/elle écrivit
Nous écrivîmes
Vous écrivîtes
Ils/elles écrivirent

Many irregular verbs base the passé simple on the stem and final vowel of the past participle. If that vowel is "u", use the following endings.

Je us
Tu us
Il/elle ut
Nous ûmes
Vous ûtes
Ils/elles urent

Example:
avoir
J'eus
Tu eus
Il/elle eut
Nous eûmes
Vous eûtes
Ils/elles eurent

Some irregular verbs and their compounds have unpredictable simple past stems and vowels.

Example:
être
Je fus
Tu fus
Il/elle fut
Nous fûmes
Vous fûtes
Ils/elles furent

Note: The simple past stems of the verbs tenir and venir (and their compounds - eg. devenir) follow the "i" endings but drop the vowel.

Example:
venir
Je vins
Tu vins
Il/elle vint
Nous vînmes
Vous vîntes
Ils/elles vinrent


IMPARFAIT
Imparfait describes an action that was happening or used to happen in the past. The length of time of the action is not usually clear.

Formation of the Imparfait:
Use the nous form of the verb (present tense); remove -ons; add the following endings to the stem. Imparfair is used when you have an action that was going on in the past but was interrupted by another action, when you have an action repeated in the past, when you are describing something or a condition in the past, and when you are making a suggestion that a certain action be taken.
Je ais
Tu ais
Il/elle ait
Nous ions
Vous iez
Ils/elles aient

Example:
regarder
Je regardais
Tu regardais
Il/elle regardait
Nous regardions
Vous regardiez
Ils/elles regardaient
finir
Je finissais
Tu finissais
Il/elle finissait
Nous finissions
Vous finissiez
Ils/elles finissaient
attendre
J'attendais
Tu attendais
Il/elle attendait
Nous attendions
Vous attendiez
Ils/elles attendaient

Note: When you have an action that was going on in the past but was interrupted by another action, the action that is in progress is in the imparfait and the action that interrupted it is in the passé composé.


PASSÉ COMPOSÉ
Passé composé describes an action that happened at a particular moment or space of time in the past and that was clearly completed in the past. For regular verbs with an infinitive ending in -er, the past participle is formed by replacing the final -er of the infinitive with -é.

Note: The auxiliary "avoir" is used for all verbs that are not from MRSRDVANDERTRAMP. MRSRDVANDERTRAMP verbs use the auxiliary "être".

Example:
regarder
J'ai regardé
Tu as regardé
Il/elle a regardé
Nous avons regardé
Vous avez regardé
Ils/elles ont regardé
monter
Je suis monté(e)
Tu es monté(e)
Il/elle est monté(e)
Nous sommes monté(e)(s)
Vous êtes monté(e)(s)
Ils/elles sont monté(e)s

Note: Remember that for verbs using the auxiliary "être", you have to make the endings agree (think feminine, plural).

MRS.RD VANDERTRAMP
Monter
Retourner
Sortir
Revenir
Devenir
Venir
Aller
Naître
Descendre
Entrer
Rentrer
Tomber
Rester
Arriver
Mourir
Parter

Note: All of the above verbs use the auxiliary "être".


PLUS QUE PARFAIT
The plus-que-parfait is formed with the auxiliary in the imparfait followed by the past participle of the verb. The choice of auxiliary, être or avoir, is the same as for the passé composé.

Example:
regarder
J'avais regardé
Tu avais regardé
Il/elle avait regardé
Nous avions regardé
Vous aviez regardé
Ils/elles avaient regardé
monter
J'étais monté(e)
Tu étais monté(e)
Il/elle était monté(e)
Nous étions monté(e)(s)
Vous étiez monté(e)(s)
Ils/elles étaient monté(e)s

Note: Remember that for verbs using the auxiliary "être", you have to make the endings agree (think feminine, plural).


PARTICIPE PRESENT
The present particple of all verbs ends in -ant; for all verbs except avoir and savoir, the -ant ending is added to the stem of the imprefect (avoir - ayant, savoir - sachant, être - éyant)

Example:
avoir
En ayant...


FUTUR SIMPLE
This tense expresses an idea in the future.
Je ai
Tu as
Il/elle a
Nous ons
Vous ez
Ils/elles ont

Example:
arriver
J'arrivrai
Tu arrivras
Il/elle arrivra
Nous arrivrons
Vous arrivrez
Ils/elles arrivront
finir
Je finirai
Tu finiras
Il/elle finira
Nous finirons
Vous finirez
Ils/elles finiront
vendre
Je vendrai
Tu vendras
Il/elle vendra
Nous vendrons
Vous vendrez
Ils/elles vendront

The following verbs are irregular:
Add the above endings to the following stems.
avoir - aur
savoir - saur
être - ser
faire - fer
aller - ir
voir - verr
pouvoir - pourr
vouloir - voudr
venir - viendr
devoir - devr
envoyer - enverr
courir - courr
mourir - mourr
recevoir - recevr


CONDITIONNEL
This tense is used to express what could happen under certain conditions. Add to the future stem (or final "r" of the inifitive) the following endings.
Je ais
Tu ais
Il/elle ait
Nous ions
Vous iez
Ils/elles aient

Example:
manger
Je mangerais
Tu mangerais
Il/elle mangerait
Nous mangerions
Vous mangeriez
Ils/elles mangeraient


SUBJONCTIF
This structure implies a mood, tone, atmosphere, feeling, or emotion. It is a reaction to a fact or a personal opinion. We use the following endings. It follows "que".
Je e
Tu es
Il/elle e
Nous ions
Vous iez
Ils/elles ent

Example:
manger
que je mange
que tu manges
qu'il/elle mange
que nous mangions
que vous mangiez
qu'ils/elles mangent
finir
que je finisse
que tu finisses
qu'il/elle finisse
que nous finissions
que vous finissiez
qu'ils/elles finissent
vendre
que je vende
que tu vendes
qu'il/elle vende
que nous vendions
que vous vendiez
qu'ils/elles vendent


FUTUR ANTÉRIEUR
This tense is formed of the futur simple of the auxiliary avoir/être and the past participle of the verb.

Example:
manger
J'aurai mangé
Tu auras mangé
Il/elle aura mangé
Nous aurons mangé
Vous aurez mangé
Ils/elles auront mangé
monter
Je serai monté(e)
Tu seras monté(e)
Il/elle sera monté(e)
Nous serons monté(e)(s)
Vous serez monté(e)(s)
Ils/elles seraient monté(e)s

Note: Remember that for verbs using the auxiliary "être", you have to make the endings agree (think feminine, plural).


CONDITIONNEL ANTÉRIEUR
This tense is formed of the conditionnel of the auxiliary avoir/être and the past participle of the verb.

Example:
manger
J'aurais mangé
Tu aurais mangé
Il/elle aurait mangé
Nous aurions mangé
Vous auriez mangé
Ils/elles auraient mangé
monter
Je serais monté(e)
Tu serais monté(e)
Il/elle serait monté(e)
Nous serions monté(e)(s)
Vous seriez monté(e)(s)
Ils/elles seraient monté(e)s

Note: Remember that for verbs using the auxiliary "être", you have to make the endings agree (think feminine, plural).


SOURCE:
Class notes, personal knowledge

20 Replies to A Basic Guide to French Tenses

re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By tutuforuPremium member Comments: 5714, member since Mon Jun 14, 2004
On Sun Oct 29, 2006 07:02 PM
Excellent !!
Thanks so much.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By JazzyTapper64member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 2899, member since Mon Apr 05, 2004
On Tue Oct 31, 2006 08:53 PM
Ahh, this is amazing, thank you so much! I'll definitely be referring to this a lot when I do French work from now on.

Karma for you!
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By DancinThruLife35 Comments: 242, member since Sun Jun 25, 2006
On Wed Nov 01, 2006 04:23 PM
i've only been studying french for about a month and a half so i'm not that advanced yet, but i gave you karma because it looks really helpful and i will probably need it in the future!!
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By iliahmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2331, member since Tue May 10, 2005
On Sat Nov 04, 2006 10:11 PM
I wanted to add to this:

www.verb2verbe.com

If you are not sure about any irregular/regular conjugation or are likely to get similar-looking tenses confused, check out verb2verbe. I love this site!

~H.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By Crazy_Clairemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 5653, member since Wed Jan 26, 2005
On Sun Nov 05, 2006 04:01 AM
Wow! Thats a great guide! I think it'll help me alot with French.

I think this post should be made a sticky.

Karma.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By PomPonGirl Comments: 326, member since Sun Feb 08, 2004
On Wed Nov 08, 2006 08:53 PM
Are you kidding me? I have been looking for a list like this for the past month! I'm in 4th year, but I had the summer off so I am trying to remember everything. Thank you SO much! This should be a sticky, and you get karma for this!

*Tiffany*
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By Mandymember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2035, member since Tue May 16, 2006
On Mon Dec 18, 2006 06:25 PM
oh! oh! I know some french! The longest sentence I can possibly say is.

Il est midi.

It is noon.

TADA!
I frenchperson. :D
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By fallendreamer Comments: 248, member since Mon Nov 14, 2005
On Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:10 PM
Edited by fallendreamer (145417) on 2007-01-16 23:11:32
REALLY nice review all in one place.

I actually loved learning present tense because, for regular verbs at least, my teacher (in junoir high that is...before complicated junk arose) did everything in SONG!! (saying each letter as ee, ee ess, ee for them etc.)

To Old Mcdonald had a farm....
"e, es, e, ons, ez, ent. endings for the er verbs, conjugate with me. We have voyager and travailler, ecouter, danser, chanter, and parler, e, es, e, ons, ez, ent."

To *sp?* La Cucaracha! (i think...it's duhDUH duhDUH duhDUH duhduhduh duuh duhDUH)....
"is, is, it. issons. issez. issent....lalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalala..." (ir verbs)

To Frère Jacques-ish....
"s, s, nothing. ons, ez, ent. conjugate with me. verbs that end in re verbs that end in re. c'est la fin. c'est la fin."


oh and my website that I love when i'm at a loss/don't know if a verb is regular or irregular: pax.apana.org.au . . .



okay, back to memorizing 9 minutes of french speaking for my midterm part 1 tomorrow!! *yay*
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By AllemandePremium member Comments: 1341, member since Wed Feb 15, 2006
On Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:12 PM
I love the songs!!

I could not, for the life of me, remember the tune of O MacDonald. -.-"
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By BooPopsmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 960, member since Thu Aug 16, 2007
On Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:36 AM
Oh. My. Gosh. You just saved my life!
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By janellebeatty Comments: 27, member since Mon Dec 31, 2007
On Mon Dec 31, 2007 08:45 PM
oh french :)
basically my whole family is french .
so i have to take french all through high school.
it's so boring.
but at the same time i love it.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By Moofy_member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 296, member since Fri Feb 29, 2008
On Wed Jul 16, 2008 07:16 AM
Well done! Informative and admirably concise for learners :)
I'm such a huge French grammar Nazi it's unreal.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By pink_pointes_101 Comments: 144, member since Wed Jul 18, 2007
On Sat Jul 19, 2008 09:53 PM
This will help ALOT of people. Thanks for taking your time to write that. I am in late- french started in grade six. This will help alot of french newbies while they are getting better :)
`allyson
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By irish_4_life Comments: 1094, member since Tue Jul 11, 2006
On Wed Jul 30, 2008 10:01 AM
Wowzers this is great. Thanks.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By lostinside1 Comments: 1, member since Thu Mar 19, 2009
On Thu Mar 19, 2009 04:29 AM
I am doing my 6th year of french now and personally don't find this site very helpful. Maybe it's just me though...
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By dancetutuhard Comments: 161, member since Tue Jun 09, 2009
On Tue Apr 20, 2010 06:43 PM
Thanks! I'm only in French I now so we only know 3 tenses, but I'll be sure to use this next year when we learn more tenses!
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By Zophia_May Comments: 46, member since Sun Aug 30, 2009
On Tue Apr 28, 2015 09:31 PM
I think this page is a good beginning for someone who's studying French. I've heard that French verbs are difficult, but I wouldn't know because I'm French myself. It all sounds very simple to me...we use the passé composé, the conditionnel and of course the present a lot when we talk, but all tenses are good to understand.
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By maureensiobhan Comments: 4728, member since Wed Dec 24, 2003
On Wed Apr 29, 2015 01:59 PM
Je parle francais un tres peu. Je l'etudie au high school pour deux annes. (I speak French a little bit. I studied it in hhigh school for two years.) I don't want to sound pompous, but these are the correct conjugations of the verbs.

The conjugation for the verb finir (to finish)is:
je finis
tu finis
il/elle finit
nous finisons
vous finisez
ils/elles finisent

The conjugation for avoir (to have)is"
j'ai
tu as
il/elle a
nous avons
vous avez
ils/elles ont

The conjugation for the verb etre (to be)is:
je suis
tu es
il/elle es
nous sommes
vous etes
ils/elles sont

The conjugation for the verb ouvrir (to open) is:
j'ouvre
tu ouvres
il/elle ouvre
nous ouvrons
vous ouvrez
ils/elles ouvrent

The conjugation of the verb ecrir (to write) is:
j'ecrit
tu ecrit
il:elle ecrit
nous ecrivons
vous ecrivez
ils/elles ecrivent

There are the verbs se relever (to raise oneself), s'assoir (to seat oneself), s'appeller (to call oneself, to give one's name). The conjugations are as follows:

se relever:

je me leve
tu te leve
il0elle se leve
nous nous levons
vous vous levez
ils/elles ses levent

s'assoir:

je m'assieds
tu t'assieds
il/elle s'assied
nous nous assions
vous vous assiez
ils/elles assient

s'appler:
je m'appelle
tu t'appelle
il/elle s'appelle
nous nous appellons
vous vous appellez
ils/elles ses appellent
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By iliahmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2331, member since Tue May 10, 2005
On Thu Apr 30, 2015 09:00 PM
^These are the correct present tense conjugations.

Did you miss all the orange headings? How was the OP incorrect?
re: A Basic Guide to French Tenses
By Zophia_May Comments: 46, member since Sun Aug 30, 2009
On Fri May 08, 2015 04:04 PM
maureensiobhan, you got these present tenses almost right, congrats! There are still a few mistakes though, so I'll help correct them. In case somebody asks, I'm French. :)
If I ever have a doubt, I refer to that decades-old Bescherelle ( a thesaurus of verbs) that I had in grade school.

1) Finir. It takes a double-s for the last three endings, because s between two vowels is pronounced "z", which would be a mistake in that case.
nous finissons; vous finissez, ils/elles finissent.

2) Please be careful about putting the accents, because they change the way words are pronounced. If you don't put them, it's technically a mistake (I'm aware that it might be an issue with some keyboards).
So it's être, not etre, and vous êtes; je me lève, tu te lèves, il/elle se lève, ils/elles se lèvent.

3)Écrire: Careful with the endings and the accents. j'écris, tu écris, il/elle écrit, nous écrivons, vous écrivez, ils/elles écrivent.

4) S'asseoir: nous nous asseyons, vous vous asseyez, ils/elles s'asseyent. (That's still the present tense)

5) Appeler; s'appeler: tu appelles or tu t'appelles.

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