The present tense: How to talk about what you do in French

When to use the present tense

You use the present tense to give facts, to talk about what you do on a regular basis, and ‎to say what you are doing right now.‎

  • Je mange une pomme - I am eating an apple OR I eat an apple.‎
  • Tu vas au cinéma? - Do you go to the cinema? (on a regular basis) OR Are you ‎going to the cinema (right now)?‎
  • Il joue au hockey - He plays hockey OR He is playing hockey.‎

How to use regular -ER verbs in the present tense

Rule: Remove the -er from the end of the infinitive and add the appropriate ending for ‎each pronoun.

Infinitives are the basic form of a verb, before any changes for tense or people are made ‎‎- like jouer (to play) or vendre (to sell).‎

For example, jouer (to play):‎

French pronounstemendingExample
jejou‎-eje joue - ‎I play
tujou‎-estu joues - you play
il / ellejou‎-eil / elle joue - he / she plays
  • Je joue au rugby le weekend, mais il joue au tennis - I play rugby at the weekend, but ‎he plays tennis.‎

There are lots of other -ER verbs that follow the same rule:‎

  • manger - to eat
  • regarder - to watch
  • écouter - to listen to
  • habiter - to live
  • aimer - to like
  • parler - to speak
  • détester - to hate

How to use regular -IR verbs in the present tense

Rule: Remove the -ir from the end of the infinitive and add the appropriate ending for ‎each pronoun.‎
For example, finir (to finish):‎

PronounStemendingExample
jefin‎-isje finis - I finish
tufin‎-iste finis - you finish
il / ellefin‎-itil / elle finit - he/she finishes
  • Je finis mes devoirs - I finish / am finishing my homework.‎

Regular -RE verbs in the present tense

Rule: Remove the -re from the end of the infinitive and add the appropriate ending for ‎each pronoun.‎
For example, vendre (to sell):‎

French pronounStemendingExample
jevend‎-sje vends - I sell
tuvend‎-stu vends - you sell
il / ellevend(no ending)il / elle vend - he / she sells
  • Tu vends ton portable? - Are you selling your mobile phone?‎

Irregular verbs

Some common French verbs are irregular - such as avoir (to have) and être (to be) - which ‎means they don’t have the same endings as regular verbs.‎

‎Here are some useful irregular verbs:‎

aller - to go

  • je vais - I go
  • tu vas - you go
  • il / elle va - he / she goes‎

boire - to drink

  • je bois - I drink
  • tu bois - you drink
  • il / elle boit - he / she drinks‎

faire - to do / make

  • je fais - I make / do
  • tu fais - you make / do
  • il / elle fait - he / she makes / does

lire - to read

  • je lis - I read
  • tu lis - you read
  • il / elle lit - he / she reads

Some verbs have regular endings, but you have to change an accent or double a ‎consonant when you want to conjugate them in the present tense. Here are some ‎examples of these types of verbs:‎

préférer - to prefer

  • je préfère - I prefer
  • tu préfères - you prefer
  • il / elle préfère - he / she prefers‎

s’appeler - to be called

  • je m’appelle - I am called
  • tu t’appelles - you are called
  • il / elle s’appelle - he / she is called‎

Quiz

Find out how much you know about the present tense in French with this short quiz.

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