French Grammar: Irregular -ER Verbs (Present Tense)

French Grammar: Irregular -ER Verbs

French Grammar: Irregular -ER Verbs


French Grammar: Irregular -ER Verbs

Verbs are used to communicate actions. They DO things!

If you plan on doing anything in French, you’ll need to learn how verbs work – even the quirky ones! (Especially the quirky ones…)


“Bonjour! Je m’appelle Yvette. Mon mari s’appelle Christophe. Nous voyageons beaucoup. Moi, je préfère voyager aux montagnes, mais Christophe préfère voyager à la plage. Donc, nous changeons notre destination chaque année. Aux montagnes, nous commençons les leçons de ski. À la plage, nous nageons beaucoup. Pendant les vacances, nous mangeons toujours dans des bons restaurants.  D’habitude, pour le dîner nous partageons une bouteille de vin. J’envoie beaucoup de cartes postales à ma famille. Est-ce que vous envoyez des cartes postales quand vous êtes en vacances?”


Infinitives and Conjugation:

Infinitive verbs are verbs that are unchanged. They are in their most basic form, and can be adapted in many different ways. (An infinite number of ways, so to speak.)

In English, infinitive verbs always mean to do … (action). For example: to run, to read, to speak, to live, to eat, to see, to hear, to work, to study …

Infinitive verbs in French will always end with -ER, -IR, or -RE.

The –ER group of verbs is the largest; these verbs are sometimes called “Verbs of the First Conjugation”. There are fewer verbs in the -IR group; these verbs are sometimes called “Verbs of the Second Conjugation”. The –RE group of verbs is the smallest of all; these verbs are sometimes called “Verbs of the Third Conjugation”.

-ER verbs are all infinitive verbs that end with the letters -ER. Besides the -ER ending, there really is no kind of pattern as to why certain verbs are -ER verbs. The –ER ending is the equivalent of the English word to.

AIMER : To like; To love

MARCHER : To walk

CHANTER : To sing

The system of adapting infinitive verbs to different people, places, and things is called verb conjugation.

When we conjugate verbs, we team them up with different Subject Pronouns to attach actions to people, places or things. For example, from TO SPEAK to HE SPEAKS.

When we conjugate French -ER verbs, we DROP the -ER ending of the infinitive verb. What’s left is called the stem. This is where the basic meaning of the verb lies (remember that the –ER ending just means “to”).

Once we DROP the –ER ending, we then reattach a NEW ENDING to the verb stem. The NEW ENDING lets us know who or what is doing the action.

Subject Pronoun + New Ending = Correctly Conjugated Verb!

Some –ER verbs have spelling changes in their stem when they are conjugated.  This is usually done for reasons of pronunciation. These are called IRREGULAR VERBS.

For -ER verbs that end in –CER, the C changes to Ç in the NOUS form in order to keep the soft “S” sound of the C.

annoncer : nous annonçons
commencer : nous commençons

lancer : nous lançons

For –ER verbs that end in –GER, we add a silent E between the G and the E in the NOUS form in order to keep the soft “ZH” sound of the G.

changer : nous changeons

manger : nous mangeons
nager : nous nageons

For -ER verbs that end in –YER, we change the Y to I before a silent E.

employer : j’emploie, tu emploies, il/elle/on emploie, ils/elles emploient
envoyer : j’envoie, tu envoies, il/elle/on envoie, ils/elles envoient
nettoyer : je nettoie, tu nettoies, il/elle/on nettoie, ils/elles nettoient

*NOTE: For –ER verbs that end in –AYER, changing the Y to I is optional:
payer  ->  je paie, tu paies, il/elle/on paie, ils/elles paient OR je paye, tu payes, il/elle/on paye, ils/elles payent

For –ER verbs with a silent E in the syllable before the –ER ending, that E changes to È when the conjugated ending contains a silent E.

acheter : j’achète, tu achètes, il/elle/on achète, ils/elles achètent
élever : j’élève, tu élèves, il/elle/on élève, ils/elles élèvent
mener : je mène, tu mènes, il/elle/on mène, ils/elles mènent

*NOTE: For APPELER and JETER do not follow this rule. Instead of adding accent grave on the E, they double the consonant in the syllable before the –ER ending

j’appelles, tu appelles, il/elle/on appelle, ils/elles appellent

je jette, tu jettes, il/elle/on jette, ils/elles jettent

For –ER verbs with É in the syllable before the –ER ending, that E changes to È when the conjugated ending contains a silent E.

espérer : j’espère, tu espères, il/elle/on espère, ils/elles espèrent

préférer : je préfère, tu préfères, il/elle/on préfère, ils/elles préfèrent
répéter : je répète, tu répètes, il/elle/on répète, ils/elles répètent


LEAF French Grammar: Verb Conjugations – “ER” Verb Endings


Quand est-ce que vous commencez les cours?
When do y’all begin classes?

Nous commençons les cours la semaine prochaine.

We begin classes next week.

Vous mangez dans un restaurant?

Are you eating in a restaurant?

Non, nous mangeons chez nous.

No, we are eating at our house.

Est-ce que tu envoies souvent des e-mails?

Do you (inormal) often send emails?

Oui, j’envoie souvent des e-mails.

Yes, I often send emails.

Qu’est-ce qu’ils achètent au supermarché?

What are they buying at the supermarket?

Marc achète des fruits et Madeleine achète des tomates.

Marc is buying fruit and Madeleine is buying tomatoes.

Tu t’appelles comment?
What is your (informal) name?

Je m’appelle Georges.

My name is George.

Tu préfères les films d’horreur ou les films romantiques?

Do you prefer horror films or romantic films?

Je préfère les films romantiques.
I prefer romantic films.



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