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):
|je||jou||-e||je joue - I play|
|tu||jou||-es||tu joues - you play|
|il / elle||jou||-e||il / 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):
|je||fin||-is||je finis - I finish|
|tu||fin||-is||te finis - you finish|
|il / elle||fin||-it||il / 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):
|je||vend||-s||je vends - I sell|
|tu||vend||-s||tu vends - you sell|
|il / elle||vend||(no ending)||il / elle vend - he / she sells|
- Tu vends ton portable? - Are you selling your mobile phone?
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
Find out how much you know about the present tense in French with this short quiz.
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