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Your Final Information to All 21 French Tenses for Verbs


Verb conjugation is a vital a part of studying to talk French. The 21 verb kinds in French symbolize variations in tense and temper, they usually’re the keys to unlocking efficient communication. Figuring out when and tips on how to use every French tense performs an integral function in what you perceive and the way nicely you’ll be able to categorical your self. 

Twenty-one French tenses for verbs is loads, however memorizing all of them directly isn’t crucial. We’ll offer you a concise clarification of the totally different French verb tenses within the passé (previous), présent (current), and futur (future). We’ll additionally present a framework for understanding the indicatif (indicative), subjonctif (subjunctive), conditionnel (conditional), and impératif (crucial) moods.   

Why are verb tenses vital in French? 

Verb tenses in French are vital as a result of every tells you a crucial element in regards to the motion within the sentence. 

Verb tense tells you when an motion occurs

Verb tense tells you the distinction between an motion that’s already accomplished and one thing that has but to occur. 

  • Je suis allée au supermarché, et j’ai acheté du beurre. (passé composé) = I went to the grocery retailer, and I purchased some butter. 
  • J’irai au supermarché, et j’achèterai du beurre. (futur easy) = I’ll go to the grocery retailer, and I’ll purchase some butter. 

Verb tense helps order occasions

Particular tenses may also help you place occasions so as. 

  • J’avais écrit six lettres quand ils m’ont répondu. (plus-que-parfait) = I had written six letters after they replied to me. 

Verb tense gives a spotlight or background data

Even when each French tenses are prior to now timeframe, such because the passé composé vs. l’imparfait, tense can change the concentrate on the occasion or on the background data. 

  • Hier, j’ai étudié. Ma mère m’a téléphoné. (passé composé) = Yesterday, I studied. My mother referred to as me. 
  • Hier, j’étudiais quand ma mère m’a téléphoné. (imparfait adopted by passé composé) = Yesterday I used to be learning when my mother referred to as me. 

Within the first instance, it appears like two unrelated, accomplished occasions. Within the second instance, the usage of the imperfect implies that the mom’s cellphone name interrupted the examine time. 

French verb tense chart

This at-a-glance overview will enable you to start to grasp why there are such a lot of French tenses for verbs. We’ll offer you deeper descriptions and examples of every tense afterward. 

Verb Tense Use
le présent what’s occurring now
le passé composé  accomplished occasions prior to now
l’imparfait description or background data, recurring actions prior to now
le passé easy literary easy previous tense
le futur easy what is going to occur
le plus-que-parfait what had occurred
le passé antérieur literary type of the plus-que-parfait
le futur antérieur what could have occurred
le subjonctif présent unknown outcomes or recommendations
le subjonctif passé doubt or judgment over what has occurred
le subjonctif imparfait literary subjunctive previous tense
le subjonctif plus-que-parfait literary subjunctive of the plus-que-parfait
le conditionnel présent what would occur
le conditionnel passé i what would have occurred
le conditionnel passé ii literary conditional previous tense
l’impératif présent command
l’impératif passé command for one thing to be achieved by a selected time
l’infinitif présent primary unconjugated verb kind
l’infinitif passé serving to verb within the unconjugated kind plus the previous participle
le participe présent impersonal kind much like “-ing” verbs in english
le participe passé  impersonal previous participle; makes use of a serving to verb to kind different tenses 

Indicative French tenses for verbs

In French, identical to in English, l’indicatif (the indicative) is essentially the most generally used temper. This temper is used to debate information and to ask questions prior to now, current, or future. No judgment, doubt, or imposition: These are simply descriptions of actuality.

  • Il est resté chez les voisins. = He stayed on the neighbors’ home. 
  • Mes fils jouent au foot, donc ma famille est très occupée. = My sons play soccer, so my household may be very busy. 
  • Il pleut aujourd’hui, mais il va faire beau demain. = It’s raining right now, but it surely’s going to be lovely tomorrow. 

Le présent (the current tense)

The French présent tense within the indicative kind is used to speak about one thing occurring within the present second. It may well additionally point out what normally occurs or what does occur. Current tense indicative verbs in French may be common (and comply with a sample) or irregular (breaking the everyday guidelines). Many frequent verbs in French are irregular! Simply because a verb is irregular in French doesn’t essentially imply will probably be an irregular verb in English, and vice-versa.

  • Je danse avec mes amis = I dance with my mates. / I’m dancing with my mates.
  • Nous mangeons du chocolat. =  We eat chocolate. /  We’re consuming chocolate.

French doesn’t have a separate current steady verb kind like in English, so “I dance” and “I’m dancing” are represented by the identical verb: je danse. If you wish to emphasize the current second, you’ll be able to say that you’re at the moment dancing utilizing the phrase être en prepare de (to be within the motion of/to be in the course of doing one thing). 

  •  Je suis en prepare de danser. = I’m dancing (proper now). 

Le passé composé (the previous good tense)

The passé composé is a compound tense made from an auxiliary verb (avoir or être) and a previous participle. Use it to specific particular, accomplished occasions prior to now. This type is used to relate the primary occasions of a narrative.

  • Ce matin j’ai mangé le petit-déjeuner, et après, j’ai regardé la télé.= This morning I ate breakfast, and afterward, I watched TV. 
  • Hier, j’ai travaillé de 8h à 20h.= Yesterday, I labored from 8:00am to eight:00pm. 

There are particular instances the place the previous participle should comply with French gender guidelines and match the topic in quantity, resembling when the auxiliary verb is être (to be), when the verb is reflexive, or when the direct object is available in entrance of the serving to verb. 

  • Mes sœurs sont arrivées à 21h.= My sisters arrived at 9pm. 
  • Elles se sont réveillées très tôt. = They awakened very early. 
  • J’ai trouvé la banane, et je l’ai mangée. = I discovered the banana, and I ate it. 

L’imparfait (the imperfect tense)

The imparfait works alongside the passé composé as one of many fundamental previous tense verbs in French however performs a special function. The imparfait handles descriptive background data resembling: 

  • date, time, and climate
  • description of age, traits, and persona
  • most emotions, states of being, and circumstances
  • what folks needed, had or didn’t have, and wanted. 

In these examples, the imperfect units the scene slightly than narrates occasions. 

  • Il faisait beau, mais j’étais triste. = It was good out, however I was unhappy. 
  • Quand j’avais cinq ans, je voulais un chien, mais mon père avait des allergic reactions, donc je ne pouvais pas en avoir un. = After I was 5 years previous, I needed a canine, however my father had allergic reactions, so I couldn’t have one. 

The imperfect additionally differentiates between particular previous occasions and recurring or repeated actions, or what was occurring on the time that one other particular occasion occurred. 

This places the actions within the background as an “interrupted” motion or as ongoing non-specific actions prior to now. 

  • Quand j’habitais en Californie, je buvais un smoothie chaque matin. = After I lived in California, I used to drink a smoothie each morning.
  • Le téléphone sonnait quand il est rentré.= The cellphone was ringing when he got here again.

Le passé easy (the straightforward previous tense) 

The passé easy is utilized in the identical conditions because the passé composé however is never utilized in on a regular basis speech. It’s a literary tense utilized in skilled French writing and fairy tales. Because you’ll by no means must make the most of the passé easy whereas talking, it’s ample to get the that means from the context.

  • Il parla au roi. = He talked to the king.
  • Nous mangeâmes du foie gras.= We ate foie gras.

Le futur easy (the straightforward future tense)

The futur easy is the equal of claiming that one “will” do one thing. It’s referred to as easy as a result of it’s formulated with only one phrase. 

  • Tu demanderas à la fleuriste demain. = You will ask the florist tomorrow. 
  • Nous donnerons à Thomas son cadeau jeudi.= We’ll give Thomas his current on Thursday.

A typical option to speak in regards to the future in French is to conjugate aller (to go) within the current tense, after which add the infinitive of any verb. This building is known as le futur proche (the close to future tense).

  • Tu vas demander à la fleuriste demain.= You are going to ask the florist tomorrow.
  • Nous allons donner à Thomas son cadeau jeudi. = We’re going to offer Thomas his current on Thursday. 

Le plus-que-parfait (the pluperfect tense)

We predict this tense is “greater than good” as a result of it’s used to speak about an occasion that occurred earlier than one other occasion prior to now. 

  • J’avais beaucoup pratiqué avant d’étudier en France.= I had practiced loads earlier than learning in France. 
  • Elle avait acheté une flûte avant de suivre des cours de flûte.= She had purchased a flute earlier than she took flute classes.

Passé antérieur (the anterior previous tense)

Passé antérieur is simply utilized in literary texts and really formal speech. Much like how the passé easy is aligned to the makes use of of the passé composé, the passé antérieur follows the plus-que-parfait, however for formal textual content and speech. 

  • Lorsqu’il eut reçu son premier salaire, Thomas courut acheter une maison. = As quickly as he had acquired his first pay, Thomas ran to purchase a home. 

Le futur antérieur (the longer term anterior tense)

Whenever you end this part, you should have accomplished the entire indicative tenses. Like in English, use it to seek advice from a future occasion that can have been accomplished. Use the futur easy type of the auxiliary verb avoir or être adopted by the previous participle of the following verb. 

  • D’ici à la fin de ma fête d’anniversaire, j’aurai mangé trois components de gâteau. = By the top of my celebration, I could have eaten three slices of cake. 
  • Nous serons déjà partis quand vous arriverez. = We could have already left once you arrive. 

Subjunctive French tenses for verbs

The subjunctive temper deserves a prolonged submit of its personal. It’s used to speak about unsure actions, doubts, hopes and goals, and for sure judgments. It expresses a type of “fuzzy” actuality—one that would probably happen, however by using the subjunctive, the speaker casts doubt. This unsure actuality happens when one topic tries to impose their will or want on one other. 

Subjonctif présent (current subjunctive)

Fortunately, the subjunctive current has nearly the identical conjugation as indicative verbs within the current. With common verbs like manger (to eat), the subjunctive current is exactly the identical because the indicative current aside from in its nous and vous kinds (mangions and mangiez, respectively). 

Widespread irregular verbs like faire (to do/to make) will sound fairly totally different. 

  • J’exige que tu fasses tes devoirs de français. = I insist that you just do your French homework. 
  • Il n’est pas sure qu’ils soient coupables. = It’s not sure that they are responsible. 
  • Il faut que j’aille. = It’s crucial that I go

Subjonctif passé (previous subjunctive)

WIth the subjonctif passé, you merely conjugate être or avoir within the subjunctive, after which tack on the previous participle. 

  • J’étais contente qu’il ait fini ses devoirs.= I used to be pleased that he completed his homework. 
  • Je suis ravie que tu sois venue ! = I’m delighted that you just got here!

Subjonctif imparfait (imperfect subjunctive)

You’ll be able to most likely guess that the subjonctif imparfait is the subjunctive model of the imparfait. This type may be very uncommon, so you might be unlikely to come across it. 

  • Il était vital qu’il ne sût pas. = It was vital that he didn’t know

Subjonctif plus-que-parfait (pluperfect subjunctive)

Just like the subjonctif imparfait, the subjonctif plus-que-parfait is unusual in on a regular basis speech. It’s most likely the rarest kind, however we’ll give it a nod right here. It’s shaped by utilizing the subjunctive of the serving to verb avoir or être and the previous participle. 

  • Je doutais qu’ils eussent fini leur devoirs avant minuit.= I doubted they may have completed their homework earlier than midnight. 

Conditional French tenses for verbs

The conditional in French is mentioned in language studying settings as each a temper and a tense. It’s used to specific a potential future occasion that would occur beneath sure circumstances. Consider the instance: 

  • Je te donnerais de l’argent. = I would give you some cash.

Implied on this assertion is the situation “in case you wanted it,” or “in case you requested me to.” It isn’t a actuality but, but it surely’s a risk beneath sure circumstances. 

In English, we use the conditional temper once we use the phrase “would.” It’s generally utilized in si (if) clauses, identical to it’s in English. 

  • Si j’avais un million de {dollars}, j’achèterais cette maison. = If I had one million {dollars}, I might purchase this home.

Conditionnel présent (conditional current)

If you understand the futur easy stems (normally the infinitive) and the imparfait (imperfect) endings, you will have all of the substances for the current conditional! It’s an extremely helpful tense as a result of it additionally kinds the English expressions “might” and “ought to.”

  • Je vivrais à la plage.= I would dwell on the seaside. 
  • Il resterait au lit toute la journée ! = He would keep in mattress the entire day!
  • Pourrais-tu m’aider ? = Might you assist me? 
  • Ils devraient économiser s’ils voudraient partir en vacances ! = They ought to lower your expenses in the event that they would like to go on trip !

Conditionnel passé (conditional previous) and conditionnel passé II (conditional previous II)

When narrating prior to now timeframe, use the conditionnel passé (previous conditional) by placing the serving to verb avoir or être within the conditional tense and including the previous participle. Conditionnel passé II additionally exists however is simply utilized in very formal written French. They each have the identical translation in English.

  • Nous aurions aimé habiter en Europe quand les enfants étaient plus jeunes.= We would have preferred to dwell in Europe when the kids have been youthful. 
  • Si tu m’avais donné la gown, je te l’aurais redonnée. = For those who had given me the costume, I would have given it again. (conditionnel passé) 
  • Si tu m’avais donné la gown, je te l’eusse redonnée. = For those who had given me the costume, I would have given it again. (conditionnel passé II)

What are verb moods in French? 

Whereas tense offers you vital details about the timeframe of an motion, the temper can categorical the distinction between certainty and doubt, or actuality and risk beneath sure circumstances. 

  • Il est évident qu’il est coupable. (indicative temper) = It’s clear that he’s responsible. 
  • Je ne crois pas qu’il soit coupable ! (subjunctive temper) = I don’t consider that he may very well be responsible! 

Typically, a special verb tense (or temper) can categorical an vital nuance or a special degree of politeness. 

  • Je veux une napkin. (current indicative) = I desire a serviette. 
  • Je voudrais une napkin. (conditional) = I would love a serviette. 

The primary instance feels a bit boastful, whereas the second sounds extra well mannered as a result of it permits for a little bit of uncertainty—I would love a serviette (in case you can be prepared to offer me one).  

L’infinitif (the infinitive temper)

Whenever you first encounter a verb, particularly in a vocabulary record, it’s probably in its infinitive, or most simple kind. It hasn’t been modified or conjugated, and there’s no subject-verb settlement. You’ll usually see a verb’s infinitive kind on the prime of a verb conjugation chart. So, the infinitive isn’t a tense—it’s technically an impersonal temper. 

In English, infinitives begin with the phrase “to” as in “to review.” In French, infinitives are typically cut up into three classes: 

You’ll encounter infinitives in all totally different timeframes, particularly when paired with one other conjugated verb in a double-verb construction. 

  • J’aime nager. = I prefer to swim. 
  • J’aimais nager. = I preferred to swim. 
  • J’aimerais nager. = I want to swim. 
  • Je vais nager. = I’m going to swim. 

L’impératif (the crucial temper)

The crucial is usually referred to as the command kind. It’s used with an exclamation mark and is a typical option to get to the purpose when getting another person to take motion. As a result of it’s at all times directed at another person, it solely has three kinds: tu, nous, and vous. 

  • Mange ! = Eat! 
  • Allons-y ! =  Let’s go! 
  • Courez ! =  Run! 

Le participe présent (current participle) / Le participe passé (previous participle) 

Similar to the infinitive temper, le participe présent (the current participle) is taken into account an impersonal temper. There is just one kind. The English model of a gift participle is a verb ending in “-ing.” In French, the shape ends in “ant.” The current participle can be utilized to change a noun. 

  •  Ayant faim, elle a mangé deux hamburgers.= Being hungry (having starvation), she ate two hamburgers.

When en is added earlier than the current participle, it turns into a gerund (le gérondif), which can be utilized to explain an motion that co-occurs with one other, to clarify how one thing occurs, or to switch a relative clause. 

  • J’écoute de la musique en travaillant. = I hearken to music whereas working

Le participe passé (previous participle) is utilized in compound tenses which have two components, just like the passé composé and the plus-que-parfait.  These are shaped by conjugating the auxiliary, or “serving to” verb avoir or être, after which including the participe passé.

  • Le chien a mangé le poulet. = The canine ate (has eaten) the hen. 

Construct your French abilities rapidly with Rosetta Stone

Language learners can use data of the construction of the language to spice up their understanding and talent to speak. As useful as totally different French verb conjugations are, significant context can also be helpful. Use your data of the 21 verb tenses in French like a shortcut to hurry your option to real-life conversations in Rosetta Stone Tutoring classes. With the data on this information, you’ll be able to choose up on variations in tone, certainty, and timeframe.

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