How to learn French verb conjugations
Learning French verbs can be a daunting task, especially when you’re a beginner.
French is quite different to English, in that there are many different verb forms that are used depending on who the subject of the sentence you’re saying is. These different forms are called ‘conjugations’.
For example, in English, the form of the verb ‘to go’ is the same when you say ‘I go’, ‘you go’, ‘we go’ and ‘they go’. In French, on the other hand, the verb form (conjugation) will be different in each of these four examples.
It may seem like there’s a lot of work you’ll need to do to learn French verbs. But there are some simple hacks you can use to ensure that learning French verbs is as smooth and quick as possible.
Here they are!
1. Learn about French verb types
Your first step when learning French verbs and their conjugations will be to understand what types of French verbs there are. There aren’t too many types so don’t worry.
The reason you should start with this is because when you know what type of verb a particular French verb is, you will know how to conjugate it (what form to use depending on whether you’re saying ‘I go’ or ‘you go’ – you get the gist.
There are three main types of French verbs you will need to learn about:
2. Learn conjugation patterns for regular French verbs
Once you know that there are four main types of verbs in French, you will be able to move on to learning the conjugation patterns for each of the types.
You will start with the first three types I outlined above, which are regular – the ‘er’, ‘ir’ and ‘re’ verbs.
The patterns will allow you to understand what to do with a verb depending on who the subject of your sentence is.
For example, when you’re using an ‘er’ verb, such as ‘jouer’ (to play), you will learn that in the first person singular, you just need to drop the ‘r’ from the end to create the correct form of the verb. So, this will be ‘je joue’ (I play).
Once you know this, you will be able to take any regular ‘er’ verb and conjugate it in the first person singular. And once you’ve learned the pattern for all persons (you, he, she, we, you, they), you will be able to use any French ‘er’ verb in any sentence.
Those patterns are incredibly useful. They mean that you don’t need to learn conjugating individual verbs and memorising their forms. You just need to learn the patterns and that will allow you to take any verb that fits the pattern and conjugate it based on that.
I’m not going to go into the detail of the patterns because you can find them online, or you can check out some of the courses there are available, like the French Tense Master (a course about French tenses from the 5-Minute Language School), or Olly Richards French Uncovered course, which takes you from beginner to intermediate in French.
3. Learn the most common irregular verbs
Irregular French verbs are a bit more challenging to learn because they don’t follow the patterns I described above. That’s why they’re called ‘irregular verbs’!
This means you will actually need to memorise the different forms of the verbs. Some of them will be similar to each other, though, which means that the more irregular French verbs you know, the easier it will be for you to learn more irregular verbs.
The key thing to remember when learning irregular French verbs is to learn the most common ones first. So don’t be tempted to learn them alphabetically because you may end up knowing some verbs that are hardly ever used, instead of the ones you will need in every single conversation.
Some of the most common irregular French verbs are ‘être’ (to be), ‘avoir’ (to have), ‘faire’ (to do), ‘aller’ (to go), ‘pouvoir’ (to be able to), ‘vouloir’ (to want). Learn them first become I guarantee you’ll need them in most sentences you’ll be using when speaking French.
Again, I’m not going to tell you what the conjugations of these common irregular French verbs are as they are easy enough to find elsewhere.
But if you’d like a guided introduction to irregular French verbs, though, including how to use them in sentences in different tenses, check out the French Tense Master course that I offer as part of the 5-Minute Language School.
Or, if you’d like to learn French verbs as part of a broader French course for beginners, Olly Richards’ French Uncovered course will take you from zero to intermediate – I highly recommend it.
4. Learn French verbs in context
This is particularly important so make sure you don’t skip this step when you’re learning French verbs and their conjugations.
Whenever you learn a new French verb (regular or irregular), make sure you look it up in context – as part of a full sentence – and preferably in lots of different forms (how it’s used with ‘I’ but also with ‘you’, ‘he/she’, ‘they’, and so on). You will find examples of sentences in dictionaries so make sure you check in several different online dictionaries to get a good range of examples.
Seeing the French verbs in context will help you understand how they should be used in conversations, how they fit around other French words, and how to use them to make sure you sound natural when speaking French.
Looking at lots of examples will also help you consolidate the French verbs you’re learning in your memory.
5. Practise using new French verbs in speech
Once you’ve done the step above – learned to conjugate a verb and seen a lot of examples of it used in sentences, you should start practising it in speech. Make up your own sentences and say them out loud. Write them down too.
All this will help you memorise the verb more effectively and you’ll be more ready to use it in a conversation when you need it.
I hope you enjoyed these five tips for learning French verb conjugations. Make sure you check out my list of French resources by clicking the banner below as well. Good luck!
This content was originally published here.