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Beginners French: The Tenses: -IR Verbs

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The French language has something known as a 'conjugation system'. This means that in order for you to say "I finish" (je finis) and "he finishes" (il finit) you have to change the verb ending of the verb that you used (finir = to finish). In this case, it was the subtraction of the "r" (from the infinitive: finir) and the addition of an "s" for "I finish" (je finis), and the addition of a 't' in the case of 'he finishes' (il finit).

You can see that no change is made in English verbs: I finish, you finish, they finish. However, similarly to the French, a change is seen when using a third person pronoun: "he/she/it finishes" in order to make the verb "finish" correct in the present tense.

Changes in the verb endings must be made when using verbs with the pronouns: "I" "you" "he/she/it" "we" "you (plural)" and "they".

But don't worry! There are simple rules that unify all of the verb endings, and after remembering these (and a few irregular endings) you will have a firm grasp of French grammar! Remember also that there there are different verb endings for each tense, so a different one for past, present, and future tenses.

Interesting Fact: The English language also used to have a conjugation system (a declension system) like the other European languages, but lost it around 1550 because it was easier that way! Lucky French students!

beginners-french-the-tenses

-IR Verbs

-IR verbs are verbs that end in 'ir' instead of anything else. A few examples include:

  • Finir- to finish
  • Choisir - to choose
  • Réussir - to succeed

Conjugating!
The verb "finir" is taken as an example in the table below. If you wish to conjugate other "-ir" verbs, just add the endings to the stem (the verb without the "-r") of the verb and add the appropriate endings. Try to memorise all of the verb endings because they will be used in every single french sentence you hear!

For an example of conjugation: "he chooses" is "il choisit" and "they succeeded" is "ils ont réussit".

Future and Conditional Tense
For the future and conditional tense, it is necessary to use the infinitive of the verb before adding on the necessary endings (see below). The infinite form of the verb is the one including the "-ir" and is the form you would see in a dictionary.

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Pronouns:
je = "I"

tu = "you"
il/elle/on = "he/she/it"
Nous =
"we"
vous = "you
(plural)"
Ils/elles = "they (masculine)/they (feminine)"


For -IR verbs: the endings for each tense go as follows:

  • Present: (stem +) "s, s, t, ons, ez, ent"
  • Imperfect: (stem + double consonant) "ssais, ssais, ssait, ssions, ssiez, ssaient"
  • Future Simple: (infinitive +) "ai, as, a, ons, ez, ont"
  • Conditional: (infinitive +) "ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient"

IR verb endings for the verb "finir" - to finish

PronounPresent TensePast (passé composé) TenseFuture (simple) TenseImperfect TenseConditional Tense

je

finiS

ai fini

finirAI

finiSSAIS

finirAIS

tu

finiS

as fini

finirAS

finiSSAIS

finirAIS

il/elle/on

finiT

a fini

finirA

finiSSAIT

finirAIT

nous

finiSSONS

avons fini

finirONS

finiSSIONS

finirIONS

vous

finiSSEZ

avez fini

finirEZ

finiSSIEZ

finirIEZ

ils/elles

finiSSENT

ont fini

finirONT

finiSSAIENT

finirAIENT

beginners-french-the-tenses

Test Your '-IR' Grammar!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which are the following endings appropriate for the present tense of -IR verbs?
    • ssais, ssais, ssait, ssions, ssiez, ssaient
    • s, s, t , sons, sez, ent
    • (infinitive +) ai, as, a, ons, ez, ont
    • (infinitive +) ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
  2. Which are the following endings appropriate for the future simple tense of IR verbs?
    • s, s, t, ons, ez, ent
    • ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
    • (infinitive +) ai, ai, as, ons, ez, ont
    • (infinitive +) ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
  3. Which are the following endings appropriate for the imperfect tense?
    • s, s, t, ons, ez, ent
    • ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
    • (infinitive +) ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
    • (infinitive +) ai, as, a, ons, ez, ont
  4. Which are the following endings appropriate for the conditional tense?
    • (infinitive +) ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
    • s, s, t, ons, ez, ent
    • (infinitive +) ai, as, a, ons, ez, ont
    • ais, ais, ait, ions, iez. aient

Answer Key

  1. s, s, t , sons, sez, ent
  2. (infinitive +) ai, ai, as, ons, ez, ont
  3. ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
  4. (infinitive +) ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient
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The 2 Other Regular Verb Endings

Learning Irregular Verb Endings Is Useful Too!

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