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

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

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

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”.

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

Here are some common -IR verbs:

APPLAUDIR : To applaud / To clap

BÂTIR : To build

CHOISIR : To choose

DÉSOBÉIR (À) : To disobey

FINIR : To finish

GRANDIR : To grow / To grow up

GROSSIR : To gain weight / To get fat

GUÉRIR : To cure

MAIGRIR : To lose weight / To get thin

OBÉIR  (À) : To obey

PUNIR : To punish

RÉFLÉCHIR (À) : To reflect (on) / To think (about)

REMPLIR : To fill / To fill out

RÉUSSIR : To succeed / To pass (an exam, a course)

RÔTIR : To roast

ROUGIR : To blush

SAISIR : To seize

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 FINISH to HE FINISHES.

When we conjugate French -IR verbs, we DROP the -IR 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 –IR ending just means “to”).

Once we DROP the –IR 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 for -IR verbs are as follows:

JE : –is
(This ending is always pronounced ‘ee’)

TU : –is
(This ending is always pronounced ‘ee’)

IL / ELLE / ON : –it
(This ending is always pronounced ‘ee’)

NOUS : –issons
(This ending is pronounced ‘ee-SOHn’.  The final /s/ is always silent!)

VOUS : –issez
(This ending is pronounced ‘ee-SAY’.  The final /z/ is always silent!)

ILS / ELLES : –issent
(This ending is always pronounced ‘eess’.  The final /ent/ is always silent!)

For Example:



to build



(This is the stem)


Je bâtis

I build; I do build; I am building

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

Je bâtis

Tu bâtis

Il / Elle / On bâtit

Nous bâtissons

Vous bâtissez

Ils / Elles bâtissent

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


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

Je choisis
I choose; I do choose; I am choosing

Tu obéis
You (informal) obey; You do obey; You are obeying

Ils réussissent
They (masc.) succeed; They do succeed; They are succeeding


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 rougis pas
I do not blush; I am not blushing

Tu n’obéis pas
You do not obey; You are not obeying


Finissez-vous les devoirs?
Are you (formal) finishing the homework?

Oui, je finis les devoirs.
Yes, I am finishing the homework.

Est-ce qu’il finit les devoirs?
Is he finishing the homework?

Non, il ne finit pas les devoirs.
No, he is not finishing the homework.

Nous rôtissons le poulet?
Are we roasting the chicken?

Oui, nous rôtissons le poulet.
Yes, we are roasting the chicken.

Vous désobéissez vos parents?
Do y’all disobey your parents?

Non, nous ne désobéissons pas nos parents.
No, we don’t disobey our parents.

Est-ce qu’ils bâtissent la maison?
Are they building the house?

Oui, ils bâtissent la maison.
Yes, they are building the house.

Est-ce que tu punis les enfants?
Are you (informal) punishing the children?

Oui, je punis les enfants parce qu’ils me désobéissent.
Yes, I am punishing the children because they are disobeying me.

Elles réussissent au cours de français?
Are they (fem.) passing the French course?

Oui, elles réussissent au cours de français.
Yes, they (fem.) are passing the French course.

Je choisis la robe bleue. Et toi?
I choose the blue dress.  And you (informal)?

Non, je choisis la robe verte.
No, I choose the green dress.