french irregular verbs

the ultimate guide to french irregular verbs – LOOK NO FURTHER

If you’re new to learning French or have been learning for a while but and are trying to get a grasp of irregular verbs, then this page should be an excellent resource for you.

First of all, what is an irregular verb? An irregular verb is a verb that does not fall into the cookie-cutter conjugation patterns of the regular -er, -ir and -re sets. This is to say that the patterns of the verb endings are different.

I have been teaching French online since 2013 and have helped my students to get their heads around irregular verbs using the approach on this page. This page does not teach every singular irregular verb in the French language but sets you up to understand some serious patterns.

Basically, what I do is group the verbs into specific sub-groups with common patterns. Often, each sub-group has what I call a base verb and I associate other irregular verbs with that base verb. Often most of the verbs in a sub-group will have a similar past participle, but not 100% of the time.

What’s great is that if you can master the irregular verbs in the present tense, specifically in the nous and ils forms, you’ll have the ground work done for learning both the imperfect tense and subjunctive moods.

Sub-group 1: verbs based on PRENDRE

note: lots of textbooks will call these “irregular -re verbs”

For these verbs simply memorize prendre than add prefix letters to the other verb and base their conjugations off of prendre.

PRENDRE
TO TAKE
COMPRENDRE
TO TAKE
APPRENDRE
TO TAKE
SURPRENDRE
TO TAKE
je prends
tu prends
il prend
nous prenons
vous prenez
ils prennent
j'ai pris
je comprends
tu comprends
il comprend
nous comprenons
vous comprenez
ils comprennent
j'ai compris
j'apprends
tu apprends
il apprend
nous apprenons
vous apprenez
ils apprennent
j'ai appris
je surprends
tu surprends
il surprend
nous surprenons
vous surprenez
ils surprennent
j'ai surpris

Sub-group 2: Verbs based on VOIR

Notice that employer and envoyer don’t line up perfectly with voir and croire. However, the verbs can still be associated together because of a) The way the je, tu and il forms sound and b) the nous, vous and ils form patterns are the same for all the verbs.

VOIR
TO SEE
TO BELIEVE
CROIRE
TO SEND
ENVOYER
TO USE
EMPLOYER
je vois
tu vois
il voit
nous voyons
vous voyez
ils voient
j'ai vu
je crois
tu crois
il croit
nous croyons
vous croyez
ils croient
j'ai cru
j'envoie
tu envoies
il envoie
nous envoyons
vous envoyez
ils envoient
j'ai envoyé
j'emploie
tu emploies
il emploie
nous employons
vous employez
ils emploient
j'ai employé

Sub-group 3: Verbs based on LIRE

I associate the following four verbs together simply based on the -is, -is, -it endings for je, tu and il. The patterns for the nous, vous and ils and well as the past participle don’t match up. Notice that for these verbs, with the exception of lire, the past participle sounds like the third-person singular (il) in the present tense.

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LIRE
TO READ
ÉCRIRE
TO WRITE
DIRE
TO SAY
RIRE
TO LAUGH
je lis
tu lis
il lit
nous lisons
vous lisez
ils lisent
j'ai lu
j'écris
tu écris
il écrit
nous écrivons
vous écrivez
ils écrivent
j'ai écrit
je dis
tu dis
il dit
nous disons
vous dites
ils disent
j'ai dit
je ris
tu ris
il rit
nous rions
vous riez
ils rient
j'ai ri

Sub-group 4: Verbs based on CONDUIRE

These verbs follow the same conjugation patterns beautifully. Just memorize conduire perfectly and the rest of the verbs are very easy to remember. Notice that for these verbs the past participles are the same as the third-person singular (il) in the present tense.

CONDUIRE
TO DRIVE
PRODUIRE
TO PRODUCE
CONSTRUIRE
TO CONSTRUCT
DÉTRUIRE
TO DESTROY
je conduis
tu conduis
il conduit
nous conduisons
vous conduisez
ils conduisent
j'ai conduit
je produis
tu produis
il produit
nous produisons
vous produisez
ils produisent
j'ai produit
je construis
tu construis
il construit
nous construisons
vous construisez
ils construisent
j'ai construit
je détruis
tu détruis
il détruit
nous détruisons
vous détruisez
ils détruisent
j'ai détruit

Sub-group 5: Verbs based on CONNAITRE

The following verbs are all conjugated in the exact same way as connaître. Just memorize connaître and all the other verbs will fall into place.

CONNAITRE
TO KNOW
RECONNAITRE
RECOGNIZE
PARAITRE TO APPEAR/SEEMAPPARAITRE
TO APPEAR
je connais
tu connais
il connaît / ait
nous connaissons
vous connaissez
ils connaissent
j'ai connu
je reconnais
tu reconnais
il reconnaît / ait
nous reconnaissons
vous reconnaissez
ils reconnaissent
j'ai reconnu
je parais
tu parais
il paraît / ait
nous paraissons
vous paraissez
ils paraissent
j'ai paru
j'apparais
tu apparais
il apparaît / ait
nous apparaissons
vous apparaissez
ils apparaissent
j'ai apparu

Sub-group 6: Verbs based on METTRE

The following verbs are all based on mettre. You’re simply adding prefix letters to -mettre to make other verbs. Notice the verbs’ similarities to English, e.g., permettre -> permit, comettre -> commit. Of course don’t foret to “omit omettre”!

METTRE
TO PUT
PROMETTRE
TO PROMISE
PERMETTRE
TO PERMET
COMMETTRE
TO COMMIT
je mets
tu mets
il met
nous mettons
vous mettez
ils mettent
j'ai mis
je promets
tu promets
il promet
nous promettons
vous promettez
ils promettent
j'ai promis
je permets
tu permets
il permet
nous permettons
vous permettez
ils permettent
j'ai permis
je commets
tu commets
il commet
nous commettons
vous commettez
ils commettent
j'ai commis

Sub-group 7: -EINDRE & -AINDRE verbs

The following verbs’ infinitives end in -eindre and -aindre. For this entire group the only thing that changes is the -e’s or the -a’s between the different forms. Also note that past participles are the exact same as the third-person singular (il) forms in the present tense for all the verbs.

CRAINDRE
TO FEAR
PLAINDRE
TO PITY
PEINDRE
TO PAINT
ATTEINDRE
TO REACH
je crains (le pire)
tu crains
il craint
nous craignons
vous craignez
ils craignent
j'ai craint
je plains
tu plains
il plaint
nous plaignons
vous plaignez
ils plaignent
j'ai plaint
je peins
tu peins
il peint
nous peignons
vous peignez
ils peignent
j'ai peint
j'atteins
tu atteins
il atteint
nous atteignons
vous atteignez
ils atteignent
j'ai atteint

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