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How To Master The French French Present Participle & Gerund

How To Master The French French Present Participle & Gerund

French present participle and gerund

The French present participle (participe présent) is formed by dropping the -ons on the nous form of the verb in the present tense and adding -ant. This is the equivalent of the -ing ending in English. For example, nous parlons -> parl -> parlant (speaking). The gerund (le gérundif) is formed by preceding the present participle with “en”. For example, “en parlant” (while speaking).

French Gerund and present participle: Complete Beginners Guide

How to form the French present participle

The present participle is always formed by removing the -ons in the nous form of the present tense an adding -ant. Present participles can be nouns, adjectives and verbs.

The verbs être (to be), avoir (to have) and savoir (to know) have irregular present participle forms.

The following table shows how to form the present participle in French.

nous parlonswe speakparlantspeaking
nous sortonswe go outsortantgoing out
nous finissonswe finishfinissantfinishing
nous croyonswe believecroyantbelieving
nous vendonswe sellvendantselling
nous mangeonswe eatmangeanteating
nous lançons
we throwlançantthrowing
se balader to have a walkse baladantwalking
se souvenirto rememberse souvenant remembering
êtreto beétantbeing
avoirto have ayanthaving
savoirto knowsachantknowing
French present participle example

French present participle examples of nouns and adjectives


When using the present participle to form a noun, add an -e for the feminine form and -s for the plural form.

  • le gagnant the winner (m) la gagnante the winner (f)
  • le perdant the loser (m) la perdante the loser (f)


When used as an adjective, the present participle must agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies.

  • un travail exigeant A demanding job
  • un enfant fatigant A tiring child
  • un film amusant A fun movie
  • un voyage épuisant A tiring trip
  • un roman fascinant A fascinating novel


The present participle may also be used to equate to the English -ing ending.

  • Je t’ai vu entrant dans la maision. I saw you entering the house.
  • Ayant moins de temps libre, j’ai décidé d’annuler mes vacances. Having less time, I decided to cancel my vacation.
  • Ne sachant pas sa réponse, je ne savais pas quoi faire. Not knowing her answer, I didn’t know what to do.

To express “having + verb+ed” (for example, “having worked”) combine the auxiliary verb avoir or être with the past participle.

For example: Ayant mangé (having eaten) and étant retourné (having returned).

  • Ayant payé mon loyer, je n’avais plus d’argent. Having paid my rent, I didn’t have any more money.
  • Étant arrivé en retard, j’ai raté la réunion. Having arrive late, I missed the meeting.
  • Étant parti de bonne heure, nous sommes arrivés en avance. Having left early, we arrived ahead of time.

How to use the French gerund

The French gerund is formed by combining en with the present participle. The present participle is formed by replacing the ons in the nous present form with ant.

The gerund can be used to express simultaneous actions (while + verb in -ing form) as well as cause and effect actions (by verb in -ing form).

Example sentences using the gerund

When used to form sentences, the gerund (en + present participle) can translate to both “by verb+ -ing form” and “while verb + -ing form”. For example, en mangeant translates to both “by eating” and “while eating”.

  • J’apprends le français en écoutant des podcasts. I learn French by listening to podcasts.
  • Tu apprends l’espagnol en passant tes vacances en Espagne. You learn Spanish by/while spending your vacation in Spain.
  • Il s’est cassé une dent en mangeant une glaçon. He broke a tooth while eating an ice cube.
  • Elle s’est perdue en se baladant dans le désert. She got lost walking in the desert.

Tout + gerund structure

The structure “tout + en + gerund” is used to express a contradiction between two occurances.

  • Tout en étant très travaileur, il n’atteignait pas ses objectifs. Even though he was hardworking, he wasn’t reaching his goals.
  • Tout en ne disant rien, il disait tout. While saying nothing, he was saying everything.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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