tricky verbs

February 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

These are verbs to get solid and not mix up.

– verbs that take a preposition in English, but nothing in French
attendre – to wait, to wait for
chercher – to look for
écouter – to listen, to listen to
regarder – to look at
demander – to ask
payer – to pay (for)
se rappeler – to remember

– à verbs
These verbs are always followed by an à. End of story.
obéir à – to obey
plaire à – to please
renoncer à – to give up, to renounce
ressembler à – to resemble
réussir à – to succeed at (because you always succeed AT something. You don’t just succeed)
échouer à – to fail at (because you always fail AT something. You don’t just fail)
assister à – to attend (at an event)
tenir à – to insist on something, OR to be fond of, to be attached to
apprendre à – to learn to, to teach to
manquer à – to miss (backwards)

– other verbs with other prepositions

remercier de – to thank for (followed by an infinitive)
changer de – to change (clothes, address, etc.)
donner sur – to look out over
appuyer sur – to push (a button, the accelerator, the brakes)
s’occuper de – to take care of, be in charge of, to deal with
se marier avec – to be married to
se fâcher contre – to be mad at
se moquer de – to make fun of
être persuadé de – to be persuaded to, about
être déçu de – to be disappointed about
être désolé de – to be sorry about
être prêt à – to be ready to

– other verbs whose meanings change depending on preposition
parler à – to talk to
parler de – to talk about

penser à – to think about (mind wandering)
penser de – to have an opinion about

manquer à – to miss (backwards – I miss you – tu me manques)
manquer – to miss (j’ai manqué l’autobus)
manquer de – to be lacking of (il manque de dignité)

servir à – to be used for
servir – to serve
servir de – to be used as, to act as, to be
se servir de – to use

jouer à – to play a game
jouer de – to play an instrument

Composed Tenses

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Composed Tenses

The passé composé, plus que parfait, the conditional past, and the futur anterieur are all composed tenses. This means that they all have an auxiliary verb (avoir or être) plus a past participle. The only thing that changes between the tenses is the tense of the auxiliary verb. Other than the tense of the auxilary verb, ALL the composed tenses are done just like passé composé.

Passé Composé = verbed, did verb, or has / have verbed

To form the passé composé,

1. conjugate auxiliary verb (avoir or être) in present tense

2. plug in past participle

3. for verbs with être in passé composé, add “e” or “s” to past participle to match the subject in gender and number

Plus Que Parfait = haD verbed

The plus que parfait is the tense that happened before the passé composé.

Ex : We haD already left when they arrived.

had left = plus que parfait

arrived = passé composé

To form the plus que parfait,

1. conjugate the auxiliary verb (être or avoir) in imparfait

2. plug in past participle

3. for verbs that use être as their auxiliary verb, add “e” or “s” to past participle to match the subject in gender and number

Past Conditional = would have verbed

To form the conditional past,

1. conjugate auxiliary verb (avoir or être) in the conditional

2. plug in past participle

3. for verbs whose auxiliary is être, add “e” or “s” to past participle to match it with subject in gender and number

Futur Anterieur = will have verbed

To form this tense,

1. conjugate the auxiliary verb (être or avoir) in the future tense

2. plug in the past participle

3. if the auxiliary verb is être, add “e” or “s” to the past participle to match the subject in gender and number

Lire Dire Ecrire

September 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

These verbs are usually taught together because they have similar conjugations.  Not identical conjugations, but similar.

lire – to read

je lis nous lisons
tu lis vous lisez
il lit ils lisent



dire – to say or to tell

je dis nous disons
tu dis vous dites
il dit ils disent


médire – to speak ill of, to malign
maudire – to curse (add an extra s for nous, vous, ils conjugations)
prédire – to predict

écrire – to write

j’écris nous écrivons
tu écris vous écrivez
il écrit ils écrivent


s’inscrire – to register
inscrire – to inscribe
décrire – to describe
circonscrire – to circumvent
prescrire – to prescribe
proscrire – to banish, outlaw, advise against
récrire – to rewrite
transcrire – to transcribe
souscrire – to subscribe

Peindre And Similar Verbs

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

These verbs all end in ‘indre’ and all follow the same conjugations.

atteindre – to attain, to reach

j’atteins nous atteignons
tu atteins vous atteignez
il atteint ils atteignent

past participle – atteint


éteindre – to extinguish, to turn off (electrical or gas powered things)

j’éteins nous éteignons
tu éteins vous éteignez
il étéint ils éteignent

past participle – éteint

craindre – to fear

je crains nous craignons
tu crains vous craignez
il craint ils craignent

past participle – craint

joindre – to join

je joins nous joignons
tu joins vous joignez
il joint ils joignent

past participle – joint

Other ‘indre’ verbs are

peindre – to paint
dépeindre – to depict, to portray
empreindre – to imprint, to mark
feindre – to feign
restreindre – to restrict, to limit
contraindre – to constrain
deteindre – to fade, discolor
astreindre – to force, compel, subject
s’astreindre -to force oneself
épreindre – to squeeze out
étreindre – to clasp, to bind
plaindre – to pity
se plaindre de – to complain about
rejoindre – to rejoin, join again
conjoindre – to conjoin
disjoindre – to disjoin
ratteindre – to overtake again





le plus-que-parfait

November 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

This tense is the equivalent to had verbed in English.  It’s a nice verb tense because it is a combination of previously learned tenses – there is nothing new in this tense, just a different combination of two tenses that you already know.  The plus-que-parfait is a composed tense, which means that it is composed of an auxiliary verb and a past participle.

To form the plus-que-parfait

1.  Put the auxiliary verb (être or avoir) in imparfait to match the subject

2.  Add in the past participle. Treat the past participle just like you would if it were in passé composé. (lots of examples below)

Regular Verb


J’avais dit Nous avions dit
Tu avais dit Vous aviez dit
Il avait dit Ils avaient dit

Vandertrampp Verbs (conjugated with être as the auxiliary verb in passé composé)


J’étais arrivé (e) Nous étions arrivé(e)s
Tu étais arrivé(e) Vous étiez arrivé(e)(s)
Il était arrivé Ils étaient arrivés
Elle était arrivée Elles étaient arrivées

Reflexive Verbs

Se Réveiller

Je m’étais réveillé(e) Nous nous étions réveillé(e)s
Tu t’étais réveillé(e) Vous vous étiez réveillé(e)(s)
Il s’était réveillé Ils s’étaient réveillés
Elle s’était réveillée Elles s’étaient réveillées

Passé Simple

May 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The passé simple is a tense that is only used in writing. It takes the place of the passé composé in novels, newspapers, and other relatively formal forms of writing.
My goal is that you recognize it for what it is as you come across it in your readings. Most of the verbs are easily recognizable in their passé simple forms, but there are a few irregular ones that you won’t recognize.

Rules and charts

For verbs ending in ER (both irregular and regular)
Drop the ER and add the passé simple endings

Je parlai. Nous parlâmes
Tu parlas. Vous parlâtes
Il parla. Ils parlèrent

Aller (also ends in ER, but irregular in present tense)
J’allai. Nous allâmes
Tu allas. Vous allâtes
Il alla. Ils allèrent

For verbs ending in IR, most RE, voir, and asseoir
Drop the IR and add the passé simple endings

Je finis. Nous finîmes
Tu finis. Vous finîtes
Il finit. Ils finirent

Je descendis. Nous descendîmes
Tu descendis. Vous descendîtes
Il descendit. Ils descendirent

Je fis. Nous fîmes
Tu fis. Vous fîtes
Il fit. Ils firent

Venir verbs are irregular

Je vins. Nous vînmes
Tu vins. Vous vîntes
Il vint. Ils vinrent

Now for the list of the way irregular verbs – these ones all have the same endings, but can be hard to figure out which verbs they are because their passé simple forms in no way resemble any other form of the verb.

The endings for these verbs are

Je – us. Nous – ûmes
Tu – us. Vous – ûtes
Il – ut. Ils – urent

And here are the stems
être – f
avoir – e
boire – b
devoir – d
taire – t
lire – l
vivre – véc
plaire – pl
croire – cr

Je fus. Nous fûmes
Tu fus. Vous fûtes
Il fut. Ils furent

J’eus. Nous eûmes
Tu eus. Vous eûtes
Il eut. Ils eurent

Je lus. Nous lûmes
Tu lus. Vous lûtes
Il lut. Ils lurent

Le Futur

February 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

In English when we’re talking about an action in the future, we add the modal verb “will” (ex. On Tuesday we will go swimming.)  In French, they put the verb in the future tense. 

Clues or prompts about putting the verb in the future tense can be
*after the time expressions, quand, lorsque, dès que, and aussitôt que
*the future can also be used to emphasize a command, “you WILL do this”
*in an “if then” phrase, the “if” phrase is in present, and the “then” phrase will be in future
Si Fred réussit à l’examen, son père sera fier de lui.

The future tense is super easy.  All you have to do is remember the future stem of the verb, and add the future endings.

1.  to form the future stem of regular verbs

a. for ER verbs, use the infinitive

b.  for IR verbs, use the infinitive

c.  for RE verbs, drop the E

d.  for irregular verbs, memorize them

2.  the endings

je – ai       nous – ons

tu – as       vous – ez

   il – a           ils – ont

We will finish it tomorrow.  On le finira à demain.
I will go to bed early tonight. Je me coucherai de bonne heure ce soir.
They’ll wait for us. Ils nous attendront.

3.  Irregular infinitives and their future stems

Infinitive Future Stem
être ser
aller ir
avoir aur
faire fer
savoir saur
pouvoir pourr
vouloir voudr
devoir devr
recevoir recevr
venir* viendr
voir verr
envoyer enverr
appeler appeller*
acheter achèter*
essayer essaier*

* the asterisked verbs show the pattern / rule for all the verbs in that particular verb family.

4. Verbs such as lire, dire, écrire, boire, croire, conduire verbs, éteindre verbs, mettre verbs, prendre verbs, and suivre verbs, treat them like regular RE verbs in the future tense.

5. Some impersonal phrases in future tense;
il faut – it is necessary becomes il faudra – it will be necessary
il vaut – it is worth becomes il vaudra – it will be worth
il pleut – it’s raining becomes il pleuvra – it will rain

Vivre, Suivre, and Similar Verbs

January 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Suivre – to follow

je suis nous suivons
tu suis vous suivez
il suit ils suivent

past participle – suivi
future stem – suivr

Vivre – to live

je vis nous vivons
tu vis vous vivez
il vit ils vivent

past participle – vecu
future stem – vivr

Suivre un cours – to take a course.  You can also suivre a course of study.
Poursuivre – to pursue, to continue, to strive toward, can also be used in the legal sense – to sue or to prosecute

Vivre means to live, to be alive, or a manner of living while habiter is used more to express living at a location.

Mon amie Jennifer habite en France.
Vous habitez rue Mouffetarde?
J’habite ici depuis 1980.

With vivre one can

vivre en paix
vivre longtemps
vivre dans le luxe
vivre dans le péché
vivre à 95 ans

Other vivre phrases
Elle a beaucoup vecu. She’s had quite a life.
Une rue qui vit la nuit. A street that comes alive at night.
Il fait bon vivre ici. It’s good to live here. or Life is good here.
être facile / difficile à vivre – to be easy or hard to live with

Verbs similar to vivre and suivre

to survive – survivre
to pursue – poursuivre

Uire Verbs

July 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is a group of verbs that are all conjugated in the same pattern.

Conduire – to drive

je conduis nous conduisons
tu conduis vous conduisez
il conduit ils conduisent

 past participle is conduit

future stem is conduir

verbs conjugated like conduire

to destroy – détruire

to construct – construire

to reduce – réduire

to instruct, to inform – instruire

to translate – traduire

to seduce – séduire


June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ll start out with the uses of the imparfait. The imparfait is used to express habitual, repeated actions or to describe an emotional or physical state in the past. It can also be used to describe a situation interrupted by a precise action. Usually the time of the imparfait action or condition is vague or implied.

Here are some cues that would imply that the tense needed is l’imparfait.

a. certain word clues –
de temps en temps – from time to time
fréquemment – frequently
souvent – often
toujours – always
tous les jours – every day
tous les mois – every month
toutes les semaines – every week
le matin, le soir, la nuit – in the morning, in the evening, at night (implies every morning, evening, night)
le lundi, le mardi … le dimanche – on Mondays, on Tuesdays … on Sundays (again implies every Monday, etc.)

b. states of being can be described in l’imparfait
location – Jean habitait Paris.
age – Elle avait 6 ans.
appearance – Sophie était belle.
physical condition – Nous étions fatigués.
emotional state of being – Il était triste.
attitudes – Tu avais envie de dormir.
desires – Il voulait rentrer chez lui.
time – il était dix heures du soir.
weather – il pleuvait

c. verbs that describe mental or emotional states of being in the past often use l’imparfait
avoir envie de

Now for the conjugation of the l’imparfait. These steps apply for all verbs in the imparfait except être. The chart for être will be at the bottom of the page.
1. take the nous form of the verb
2. drop the ‘ons’
3. add the imparfait endings

je parlais nous parlions
tu parlais vous parliez
il parlait ils parlaient

je voulais nous voulions
tu voulais vous vouliez
il voulait ils voulaient

j’étais nous étions
tu étais vous étiez
il était ils étaient


* remember with ger verbs and cer verbs that you have to keep the ‘ge’ and the ‘ç’ in the nous form

nous mangeons, nous nageons – je mangeais, je nageais

nous commençons – je commençais

* last thing – for a few irregular impersonal verbs

il faut (it is necessary) changes to il fallait (it was necessary)

il pleut (it’s raining) changes to il pleuvait (it was raining)

il vaut (it’s worth) changes to il vallait (it was worth)

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