French Verb Groups

Introduction to French Verbal Groupings

French has so many verbs, so many rules…how to make heads or tails of it all?  The good news is that the great majority of French verbs follow very specific (and easy to remember) rules.

All French verbs can be classified into 3 main groupings:

Verbs of the first group: ER Verbs

The infinitive of all the French verbs in this group end in “-er” (notable exception is aller/to go). The verbs in this group are very easy to conjugate since their root remains unchanged through all tenses. (Sauter/To jump, Monter/To climb, Voler/To steal).  The vast majority (vast vast vast majority) of French verbs fall into this group.

Verbs of the second group: IR Verbs

The infinitive of the verbs in this group end in “-ir” and their participe présent with” -issant.” (Finir/To finish, Jouir/To enjoy). There are about 300 verbs in this group.

Verbs of the third group: Irregular Verbs

All the other verbs. These can be divided into 3 sub-groups:

# irregular verbs that end in  “-ir” (but should not be confused with those in the 2nd group)

Examples: Courir/To run, Venir/To come, Tenir/To hold, Ouvrir/To open, Mourir/To die

# irregular verbs that end in “-oir”

Examples: Savoir/To know, Pouvoir/To be able to, Vouloir/To want, Devoir/To must, Voir/To see

# irregular verbs that end in “-endre”

Examples: Prendre/To take, Vendre/To sell, Rendre/To give back, Entendre/To hear

#  irregular verbs that end in “-soudre”

Examples: Absoudre/To absolve, Dissoudre/To dissolve, Résoudre/To resolve

#  irregular verbs that end in “-indre” (-aindre, -eindre ou -oindre)

Examples: Atteindre/To reach, Craindre/To fear,  Joindre/To join, Peindre/To paint, Se plaindre/To complain

#  irregular verbs that end in “-ttre” (-attre ou -ettre)

Examples: Battre/To beat,  Mettre/To put, Permettre/To allow, Transmettre/To transmit, Combattre/To combat

#  irregular verbs that end in “-aître” ou “-aitre ”

Examples: Apparaitre/To appear, Connaitre/To know, Naitre/To be born,

#  irregular verbs that end in “-oître” ou “-oitre”

Examples: Croitre/To grow, Décroitre/To decrease, Accroitre/To increase

#  irregular verbs that end in “-aire”

Examples: Faire/To make, Déplaire/To displease, Distraire/To distract, Extraire/To extract, Se taire/To keep quiet

#  irregular verbs that end in “-oire”

Examples: Croire/To believe, Boire/To drink

#  irregular verbs that end in “-uire”

Examples: Conduire/To drive, Construire/To construct, Cuire/To cook, Détruire/To destroy, Déduire/To deduce

#  irregular verbs that end in “-ire”

Examples: Dire/To say, Écrire/To write, Élire/To elect, Interdire/To forbid, Lire/To read, Rire/To laugh

#  irregular verbs that end in ” -ure”

Examples: Conclure/To conclude, Exclure/To exclude, Inclure/To include

#  irregular verbs that end in “-re”

Examples: Être/To be, Rompre/To break, Suivre/To follow, Vivre/To live

# the “aller” exception. (Aller / To go)

The bad news is that the French verbs in this group are all irregular and that their conjugation must be learned individualy.  The good news, however, is that there are relatively few of them, and that their conjugation can be sub-modeled on several group “archetypes.” By learning the archetypes, you will easily know how to conjugate all the other forms.

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