Grammar is one of the most challenging yet very interesting topics when it comes to learning a new language. Vocabulary, verbs, sentence construction, tenses and verb formation are only a few of the many things one needs to learn and pay attention to while learning a new language. The good news is, learning is a process. And even though it might take some time to get it all, it all works out eventually. The step we are going to take in this article is related to grammar. Accordingly, we are going to learn french verbs and their classification.
Some french learners sometimes tend to say that the french language is difficult. “It is so complex”, “there are many rules”, “there are many exceptions to the rules”; it is ok to say these things. In fact, it is completely normal considering that it is a new language and pretty much different from the english one. However, it is not ok if we say “I can never learn” or “it is impossible to learn french”. You know why? Because it is not true. If you break down the learning process into small steps like we do, then the process would be more interesting and fun!
The first thing that we need to bare in mind is that, in french language, verbs are divided into 3 groups depending on their ending, and their conjugation rules. The first group contains the verbs ending in “er”. The second group contains verbs ending with “ir”, but there is another condition to it that we will see later on. And finally, the third group contains all remaining verb, mainly irregular verbs. Do not panic, we are going to see all these in details!
First group verbs:
In order to learn french verbs, one needs first to understand their classification. For the first group, it contains all verbs ending in “er” in their infinitive form. For example: chanter (to sing), danser (to dance), parler (to speak), regarder (to watch), confirmer (to confirm), appeler (to call), donner (to give), marcher (to walk)
When it comes to conjugate/form a first group verb in the present tense, we need to omit the “er” ending, and add the present tense endings for all personal pronouns. Yes, each tense has its own endings and its own formation. Here are the endings for verbs conjugated in the present tense:
- Je (I) – e
- Tu (you, singular) – es
- Il/elle (he/she) – e
- Nous (we) – ons
- Vous (you, plural) – ez
- Ils/elles (they)- ent
For example, for the verb marcher:
- marcher -> Je marche
- marcher -> Tu marches
- marcher -> Il/elle marche
- marcher -> Nous marchons
- marcher -> Vous marchez
- marcher -> Ils/elles marchent
This rule is applicable for all first group verbs except for the verb “aller” (to go). “Aller” is in fact a third group verb, and thus is irregular. Be careful and bare that in mind.
Second group verbs:
When it comes to the second group, it contains verbs ending in “ir” in their infinitive form. However, this goes along with another condition. A verb ending with “ir” in the infinitive form has to have the ending “issons” with the personal pronoun nous in the present tense. Do not worry, it can be tricky sometimes but small steps, remember?
Now let’s take the example of “finir” (to end) and “ouvrir” (to open). In the present tense we say:
- Nous finissons.
- Nous ouvrons.
See the difference? “Finir” in the present tense with nous ends with “issons”; however, “ouvrir” ends with “ons”. Therefore, finir is a second group verb while ouvrir is a third group verb (irregular). To form the second group verbs in the present tense, we do the same thing: we omit the infinitive ending, and we add the endings of the second group verbs in the present tense:
- Je (I) – is
- Tu (you, singular) – is
- Il/elle (he/she) – it
- Nous (we) – issons
- Vous (you, plural) – issez
- Ils/elles (they)- issent
For example, for the choisir:
- Choisir -> Je choisis
- Choisir -> Tu choisis
- Choisir -> Il/elle choisit
- Choisir -> Nous choisissons
- Choisir -> Vous choisissez
- Choisir ->Ils/elles choisissent
Here are some other examples of second group verbs: choisir (to choose), agir (to act), grandir (to grow up), saisir (to cease), définir (to define), investir (to invest), réussir (to succeed), réfléchir (to think). Now you try on your own. Go ahead, give it a shot in the comments and try to conjugate any one of these verbs in the present tense!
Third group verbs:
The most challenging part when we want to learn french verbs and their classification lies in third group verbs. Why you might ask. It is because this third group gathers all irregular verbs. They might be ending in their infinitive form with “oir” like: savoir (to know), voir (to see), vouloir (to want), or with “re” like: mettre (to put), prendre (to take), attendre (to wait), or finally with “ir” and not belonging to the second group like: ouvrir (to open), courir (to run), offrir (to offer).
And that is why there is no specific rule when it comes to form third group verbs in the present tense or any tense. These verbs are in fact learned by and with practice. And in order to practice, why not take some online french courses, and learn more about french grammar and verbs on our website with different professors?