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

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

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

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”.

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

Here are some common [-RE] verbs:

ATTENDRE : To wait (for)

CONFONDRE : To confuse

DESCENDRE : To go down (stairs, ladder, etc.) / To get off (bus, train, etc.)

ENTENDRE : To hear

MORDRE : To bite

PERDRE : To lose

RENDRE : To return / To give back / To hand in

VENDRE : To sell

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 [-RE] verbs, we DROP the [-RE] 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 [-RE] ending just means “to”).

Once we DROP the [-RE] 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 [-RE] verbs are as follows:

JE : s
(This [-s] ending is always silent, never pronounced.)

TU : s
(This [-s] ending is always silent, never pronounced.)

IL / ELLE / ON : (no additional ending)
(This form just ends with the [-d] that precedes the [-RE] ending.  Exceptions: verbs like rompre, interrompre – see NOTE 2 below.))

NOUS : –ons
(This ending is pronounced ‘OHn’.  The final [-s] is always silent!)

VOUS : –ez
(This ending is pronounced ‘AY’.  The final [-z] is always silent!)

ILS / ELLES : –ent
(This ending is always silent, never pronounced.)

For Example:



to lose



(This is the stem)


Je perds

I lose; I do lose; I am losing

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

Je perds
I lose; I do lose; I am losing

Tu perds 
You (familiar) lose; you do lose; you am losing

Il / Elle / On perd
He / She / One loses; He / She / One does lose; He / She/ One is losing

Nous perdons : We lose; We do lose; We are losing

Vous perdez : You (formal, plural) lose; You do lose; You are losing

Ils / Elles perdent : They (masculine) / They (feminine) lose; They do lose; They are losing

NOTE 1:  Before a verb that begins with a vowel or letter ‘h’, the subject pronoun JE becomes J’.  For example: J’attends, J’entends, etc.

NOTE 2: Most [-RE] ending verbs have a stem that ends in [d] (like vendre). But a few [-RE] ending verbs have a stems that don’t end in [d]. These include such verbs as rompre (to break) and interrompre (to interrupt). With verbs like these, the last letter of the stem becomes [t] in the 3rd person singular (ils/elles) form. For example: Il rompt, Elle interrompt.  This ONLY happens in the PRESENT TENSE.


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

Je descends
I go down; I do go down; I am going down

Tu entends
You (informal) hear; You do hear; You are hearing

Ils vendent
They (masc.) sell; They do sell; They are selling


To say that someone does not do 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 n’attends pas
I do not wait; I am not waiting

Tu ne vends pas
You do not sell; You are not selling


Attendez-vous le bus?
Are you (formal) waiting for the bus?

Non, j’attends un taxi.
No, I am waiting for a taxi.

Est-ce qu’il attend le train?
Is he waiting for the train?

Non, il n’attend pas le train.
No, he is not waiting for the train.

Nous descendons l’escalier?
Are we going down the stairs?

Oui, nous descendons l’escalier.
Yes, we are going down the stairs.

Vous vendez vos livres?
Are y’all selling your books?

Non, nous ne vendons pas nos livres.
No, we are not selling our books.

Est-ce qu’ils rendent les devoirs?
Are they (masculine) turning in the homework?

Oui, ils rendent les devoirs.
Yes, they (masculine) are turning in the homework.