French -ER Verbs With Spelling And Stem Changes

French ER verbs spelling stem changesSome -er verbs have spelling or stem changes in the present tense. This is to maintain pronunciation. In all other aspects these verbs are regular. The key thing here is to just be aware that these spell changes exist in the written form. In spoke French these rules are of little importance. Further down this page there are verbs with accent changes. Pay special attention to these verbs and how the accents affect the pronunciation.

ER verbs with spelling changes

-cer ending verbs

For verbs ending in -cer, such as prononcer, the -c- becomes a -ç- in the nous form. This is because with out the -ç- “prononcons” would sound like “prononkons”. The -ç- helps to maintain a soft -c- or -s- sound.

Also, notice the boot-shape of the verb below (see bold letters). Many French verbs follow this boot pattern where the je, tu, il and ils forms somehow resemble each other.

Prononcer = to pronounce
je prononce
tu prononces
il prononce
nous prononçons
vous prononcez
ils prononcent

The following verbs have conjugations similar to prononçer:

  • amorcer to boot (computer)
  • annoncer to announce
  • avancer to move forward
  • balancer to swing
  • commencer to start
  • défoncer to smash in
  • déplacer to move
  • devancer to get ahead of
  • divorcer to divorce
  • effacer to erase
  • épicer to spice
  • financer to finance
  • grimacer to make faces
  • influencer to influence
  • lacer to lace up, to tie
  • menacer to threaten
  • percer to pierce
  • placer to place
  • poncer to sand
  • relancer to restart
  • remplacer to replace
  • renoncer to give up

-ger ending verbs

For verbs ending in -ger an extra -e is inserted before the -ons in the nous form. Without the extra -e, nous mangons wouldn’t sound right because the -g would be a hard -g as in “grand”. The extra -e makes it a soft -g, maintaining the pronunciation.

MANGER TO EAT
je mange
tu manges
il mange
nous mangeons
vous mangez
ils mangent

Here are some more -ger verbs.

  • aménager to fix up, convert (room, etc.)
  • arranger to arrange
  • bouger to move
  • changer to change
  • corriger to correct
  • décourager to discourage
  • dégager to release, free
  • déménager to move
  • diriger to direct
  • encourager to encourage
  • exiger to demand, require
  • héberger to host
  • mélanger to mix
  • nager to swim
  • négliger to neglect
  • partager to share
  • plonger to dive
  • porgéger to protect
  • ranger to put away, tidy
  • rédiger to draft, write
  • télécharger to download
  • venger to avenge
  • voyager to travel

ER verbs with stem changes

-yer ending verbs

For -er verbs which have a stem ending in -yer, the -y changes to an -i before a silent -e. In the nous and vous forms the -y is maintained. The following example verb, nettoyer (to clean), is a classic boot example where the je, tu, il and ils forms resemble each other while the nous and vous forms resemble the infinitive.

NETTOYER TO CLEAN
je nettoie
tu nettoies
il nettoie
nous nettoyons
vous nettoyez
ils nettoient

Some verbs which end in -ayer may make changes similar to nettoyer above or may maintain the -y in all forms. Hence, for payer (to pay), je paie and je paye are acceptable. For verbs ending in -oyer and -uyer the -y becomes an -i before a silent -e. Here are some more -yer verbs.

  • aboyer to bark
  • appuyer to press
  • balayer to sweep
  • broyer to grind
  • effrayer to frighten
  • employer to use
  • ennuyer to bore, bother
  • envoyer to send
  • essayer to try
  • essuyer to wipe
  • noyer to drown
  • payer to pay
  • rayer to cross out
  • renvoyer to send back, fire
  • tutoyer to use tu (rather than vous)
  • vouvoyer to use vous (rather than tu)

-e + consonant + -er verbs

For verbs that end in -e + consonant + er such as acheter, an -e accent grave (è) as added to the je, tu, il and ils forms. No è occurs on the nous and vous forms. Again, a boot is formed (see bold in example below).

ACHETER TO BUY
j'achète
tu achètes
il achète
nous achetons
vous achetez
ils achètent

The following verbs have conjugation patterns similar to acheter:

  • achever to complete
  • emmener to take along
  • enlever to take off
  • lever to raise
  • mener to lead
  • peser to weight
  • semer to sow

With verbs ending in é + consonant + er, such as préférer, the second é (e accent aigu) becomes è (e accent grave) in the je, tu, il and ils forms. In the nous and vous forms the é is maintained, similar to the infinitive and hence forming the boot pattern.

PRÉFÉRER TO PREFER
je préfère
tu préfères
il préfère
nous préférons
vous préférez
ils préfèrent

The following verbs follow this pattern:

  • céder to yield
  • célébrer to celebrate
  • compléter to complete
  • considérer to consider
  • déléguer to delegate
  • espérer to hope
  • exagérer to exaggerate
  • gérer to manage
  • lécher to lick
  • posséder to own
  • protéger to protect
  • refléter to reflect
  • révéler to reveal

verbs ending in -e + l + er
and -e + t + er

For verbs such as appeler (to call), which end in -e + l + er, the -L’s double in the je, tu, il and ils forms. They remain a single -l in the nous and vous foms.

For verbs such as jeter (to throw), which end in -e + t + er, the t’s double in the je, tu, il and ils forms. They remain a single -t in the nous and vous forms. Again, boots form here and this is shown in bold below.

Note: Remembering these spelling changes can be very challenging!

APPELER TO CALL
j'appelle
tu appelles
il appelle
nous appelons
vous appelez
ils appellent
JETER TO THROW
je jette
tu jettes
il jette
nous jetons
vous jetez
ils jettent
  • épeller to spell
  • ensorceler to bewitch
  • étinceler to sparkle
  • feuilleter to leaf through
  • ficeler to tie
  • niveler to level
  • projeter to project
  • rappeler to remind, call back
  • rejeter to reject
  • renouveler to renew
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