French Present Participle & Gerund

The French present participle (participe présent) equates to the English verb+ing (speaking, eating, sleeping, etc.). It is formed by taking the nous form in the present tense, removing -ons and adding -ant. For example, parlant means “speaking”.

The French gerund (le gérundif) is formed by preceding the present participle with “en” to mean “while verb+ing” in English. For example, “en parlant” (while speaking).

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

PARLER TO SPEAK
nous parlonswe speakparlantspeaking
SORTIR TO GO OUT
nous sortonswe go outsortantgoing out
FINIR TO FINISH
nous finissonswe finishfinissantfinishing
CROIRE TO BELIEVE
nous croyonswe believecroyantbelieving
VENDRE TO SELL
nous vendonswe sellvendantselling
-CER AND -GER VERBS -> USE Ç AND AN EXTRA E
MANGER TO EAT
nous mangeonswe eatmangeanteating
LANCER TO THROW
nous lançons
we throwlançantthrowing
REFLEXIVE VERBS FOLLOW THE SAME PATTERN
se balader to have a walkse baladantwalking
se souvenirto rememberse souvenant remembering
ÊTRE, AVOIR AND SAVOIR ARE ALL IRREGULAR
êtreto beétantbeing
avoirto have ayanthaving
savoirto knowsachantknowing

Example usages of the present participle

Nouns

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)

Adjectives

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

Verbs

The present participle may also be used as a verb to mean “verb+ing”

  • 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 spoke”) combine the auxiliary verb avoir or etre with the past participle. For example: “Ayant mangé” (having eaten) and “étant retourné” (having returned).

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  • 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.

The Gerund

The French gerund is formed by combining “en” with the present participle. As described above, 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-ing) as well as cause and effect actions (by verb-ing).

Example sentences using the gerund

When used to form sentences, the gerund (en + present participle) can translate to both “by verb+ing” and “while verb+ing. 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.
  • Pierre est tombé en descendant la montagne. Pierre fell while going down the mountain.
  • Il s’est cassé une dent en mangeant une glacon. 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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