French Grammar: Present Tense – Regular [-ER] Verbs

French Grammar: Present Tense - Regular [-ER] Verbs

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French Grammar: Present Tense – Regular [-ER] Verbs
la grammaire française: les temps présent – les verbes réguliers en [-er]

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!


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 some 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 regular 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’.

AIDER : To help

CHANTER : To sing

CUISINER : To cook

DANSER : To dance

DONNER : To give

ENSEIGNER : To teach

ÉTUDIER : To study

FERMER : To close

INVITER : To invite

JOUER : To play

MARCHER : To walk

PARLER : To speak; To talk

PENSER : To think

REGARDER : To watch; To look at


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!

The new endings are as follows:

JE : -e
(This ending is always silent – NEVER pronounced!)

TU : -es
(This ending is always silent – NEVER pronounced!)

IL / ELLE / ON : -e
(This ending is always silent – NEVER pronounced!)

NOUS : -ons
(This ending IS pronounced – but the final /s/ is silent!)

VOUS : -ez
(This ending IS pronounced – but the final /z/ is silent!)

ILS / ELLES : -ent
(This ending is always silent – NEVER pronounced!)

For Example:



to give



(This is the stem)


Je donne

I give; I do give; I am giving

The full conjugation of the verb DONNER, then, looks like this:

Je donne

Tu donnes

Il / Elle / On donne

Nous donnons

Vous donnez

Ils / Elles donnent

*(NOTE:  Before a verb that begins with a vowel or letter ‘h’, the subject pronoun JE becomes J’.  For example: J’aime, J’adore, J’habite, etc.)


Conjugated verbs in the Present Tense have 3 English translations.  For example:

Je travaille
I work; I do work; I am working

Tu marches
You (informal) walk; You do walk; You are walking

Ils pensent
They (masc.) think; They do think; They are thinking


To say that someone does not do (or is not doing) something, we must surround the verb with ne…pas.  If the verb begins with a vowel or silent ‘h’, we use n’…pas instead.  For example:

Je ne travaille pas
I do not work; I am not working

Tu n’aides pas
You do not help; You are not helping


Parlez-vous français?
Do you (formal) speak French?

Oui, je parle français.
Yes, I speak French.

Est-ce qu’il parle français?
Does he speak French?

Non, il ne parle pas français.
No, he does not speak French.

Nous étudions dans la bibliothèque?
Are we studying in the library?

Non, nous étudions dans le laboratoire.
No, we are studying in the lab.

Vous chantez bien?
Do y’all sing well?

Non, nous ne chantons pas bien.
No, we don’t sing well.

Est-ce qu’ils cuisinent avec de la viande?
Do they cook with meat?

Non, ils cuisinent seulement avec des légumes.
No, they only cook with vegetables.

Est-ce que tu regardes la télé chaque jour?
Do you (informal) watch TV every day?

Oui, je regarde la télé chaque jour.
Yes, I watch TV every day.

Elles enseignent l’anglais aux étudiants?
Are they (fem.) teaching the students English?

Non, elles enseignent l’allemand.
No, they (fem.) are teaching German.

J’aime les chiens. Et toi?
I like dogs. Do you (informal)?

Non, je n’aime pas les chiens.
No, I don’t like dogs.



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