Impersonal verbs and expressions in French

Some verbs in French are always used in the third person. This means they always start with il as they are impersonal. In other words, they are general statements not related to any particular person.

They are set phrases. Therefore the subject pronoun they start with never changes and they are only ever conjugated (changed into a different tense) in the third person. For example:

  • il fait beau - it’s nice (weather)
  • il faisait beau - it was nice (weather)
  • il a fait beau hier - it was nice yesterday (weather)
  • il fera beau demain - it will be nice tomorrow (weather)

Weather phrases

FrenchEnglish
Il fait +beauIt’s nice weather
chaudIt’s hot
froidIt’s cold
mauvaisIt’s awful weather
Il y a +du ventIt’s windy
du brouillardIt’s foggy
du soleilIt’s sunny

There is also:

  • il gèle - it’s freezing
  • il neige - it’s snowing
  • il pleut - it’s raining

Other set phrases

ExpressionEnglish
Il faut…It’s necessary to
Il est facile deIt’s easy to
Il est interdit deIt is forbidden to
Il vaut mieuxIt is better to
Il est nécessaire deIt’s necessary to
Il est difficile deIt’s difficult to
Il est défendu deIt is forbidden to
Il est impossible deIt is impossible to

Examples:

  • il faut se laver les mains - you need to wash your hands
  • il vaut mieux partir plus tard – it is be better to leave later
  • il est interdit de fumer ici - smoking is forbidden here