The Present tense for the 3 Groups of Verbs in French

Conjugation may be the hardest part of learning French. Of course pronunciation is so special and grammar can be tricky but you’ll get used to it. With conjugation, on the other hand, you may always make some mistakes. And that’s fine. I mean, with so many verbs and so many tenses, even French people become hesitant sometimes. In fact, you will not master the conjugation until you hear the verbs and use them hundreds and hundreds times. But to save some time and have solid bases to get there, you’ll have to categorise the verbs. Usually, we try to separate the verbs in 3 big Groups. 1st group is for verbs ending in -ER, 2nd for verbs ending in -IR (but just a part of them), 3rd group for other verbs (inside which we could make other categories: -IR verbs, -EINDRE, -OIR, etc…).

1st Group: Verbs in -ER

Except ‘aller’ (irregular), every verb that ends in -ER (pronounced [e]) should be considered as a 1st Group verb. As so, the conjugation for the Present tense will be

You just need to remove the ending of the infinitive: -ER, then you add the new endings for each person.

Be careful to some cases:

– The verbs in -GER. Because “gons” makes the sound [g], we will add a “e” to keep the sound [j] like in:
Manger: “nous mangeons”
Partager:”nous partageons”.

– The verb in -IER. Try to not forget the “i” in the congugation like for:
Etudier: “j’étudie”
Oublier: “j’oublie”

2nd Group: Verbs in “IR”

Some verbs ending in “IR” (1) share the same conjugation. Let’s see the conjugation for the present tense:

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of Verbs ending in “IR” (2) which are in the 3rd Group, AKA Group of irregular verbs.

3rd Group: every other verbs?

Categories inside the 3rd group

What exactly is 3rd Group? Just a name we use to put the other verbs together? Well, kind of… 🙂 First, let’s make some separations between the verbs:

– Verbs ending in -UIRE: conduire, cuire, détruire…
CONDUIRE: je conduis, tu conduis, il/elle conduit, nous conduisons, vous conduisez, ils/elles conduisent.

– Verbs ending in -IR (2): partir, sortir, dormir…
The big difference with the verbs of the 2nd Group is that they don’t end with a “i”.
2nd group verb: “je finis”. 3rd group verb: “je pars”.
PARTIR: je pars, tu pars, il/elle part, nous partons, vous partez, ils/elles partent

– Verbs ending in -EINDRE: peindre, teindre…
PEINDRE: je peins, tu peins, il peint, nous peignons, vous peignez, ils/elles peignent.

– Verbs ending in -ONDRE: pondre, tondre…
TONDRE: je tonds, tu tonds, il tond, nous tondons, vous tondez, ils/elles tondent

But don’t try to memorize them all for now. It’s good to make mistakes and learn from them.

Similar Verbs

The good news is there are tons of verbs derivated from others. What does that mean for you? Actually, quite a lot because these verbs will share the same conjugations. Let’s see:

  • Once you know the verb PRENDRE, you can also conjugate COMPRENDRE, APPRENDRE, SURPRENDRE…
  • Once you know the verb TENIR, you can easily conjugate APPARTENIR, SOUTENIR, DÉTENIR, MAINTENIR.
  • Once you know the verb DIRE, you also know PRÉDIRE, CONTREDIRE, MÉDIRE…
  • Once you knwo the verb ÉCRIRE, you also know DÉCRIRE, INSCRIRE, S’INSCRIRE…

And so on!

The 12 true irregular verbs in French

The list of truly unique irregular verbs is finally not so long. Have a good look at them. They will follow you everywhere. 🙂

Être: je suis, tu es, il/elle est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont
Avoir: j’ai, tu as, il/elle a, nous avons vous avez, ils ont
Faire: je fais, tu fais, il/elle fait, nous faisons, vous faites, ils font
Venir: je viens, tu viens, il vient, nous venons, vous venez, ils viennent
Tenir: je tiens, tu tiens, il tient, nous tenons, vous tenez, ils tiennent
Savoir: je sais, tu sais, il sait, nous savons, vous savez, ils savent
Pouvoir: je peux, tu peux, il peut, nous pouvons, vous pouvez, ils peuvent
Vouloir: je veux, tu veux, il veut, nous voulons, vous voulez, ils veulent
Aller: je vais, tu vais, il va, nous allons, vous allez, ils/elles vont
Dire: je dis, tu dis, il dit, nous disons, vous dites, ils/elles disent
Valoir: je vaux, tu vaux, il vaut, nous valons, vous valez, ils valent.
S’asseoir (2nd form): je m’assieds, tu t’assieds, il s’assied, nous nous asseyons, vous vous asseyez, ils s’asseyent

Common mistakes

Most common mistakes that even French people can make (usually children) are:
Dire: vous disez vous dites
Faire: vous faisez vous faites

Falloir and pleuvoir

Last point we should talk about are the unique case of falloir and pleuvoir. These are the two impersonal verbs in French which mean they can only be conjugated with the impersonal pronoun “il”.

Pleuvoir: Il pleut.

Falloir : Il faut.

To go further, check our lessons for beginners on the frontpage and the ebook Learn French! You’ll find tons of activities to practice and get better!