Ah, French verbs! They’re the nightmare of most students of French! By popular demand, here are some of my best tips if you’re feeling lost with how to conjugate French verbs in –IR.
Learn how to Conjugate _IR Verbs Easily
Good news: you only need to learn the indicative present tense and the past participle forms! All other tenses can easily be made from them ; refer to my article “The 7 Most Common French Tenses Made Easy” (it includes a downloadable worksheet with exercises).
1. Learn the verb endings for the indicative present tense
Verbs in –IR have their endings as follows: _s, _s, _t, _ons, _ez, _ent.
Note: you need to drop the _”IR” first ! (This is only the mark of the infinitive form)
There are two exceptions (otherwise, learning would not be fun!) :
- Ouvrir (and its compound forms, such as couvrir, découvrir, recouvrir), souffrir and offrir
These verbs are conjugated like –ER verbs.
The endings are therefore : _e, _es, _e, _ons, _ez, _ent
Example: j’ouvre, tu découvres, elle souffre, ils offrent.
- Pouvoir, valoir, vouloir
These three verbs take « _x » instead of « _s” for the je/tu forms.
Since the whole conjugation of these two verbs is irregular, you need to learn it by heart anyway!
2. How to Conjugate French verbs in _IR : “finir” and “partir” patterns
Observe these two common French verbs conjugated in the present :
You will notice the typical endings : _s, _s, _t, _ons, _ez, _ent.
That’s one thing that won’t change (yeahh!!).
But you will also notice some differences:
A. Verbs like “finir”
– keep the letter “i”
– have an additional double “s” in the plural.
⇒ Verbs that are conjugated on the same pattern as “finir” will therefore end in: _is, _is, _it, _issons, _issez, _issent.
Grossir : je grossis, nous grossissons
Rougir : je rougis, nous rougissons
How to tell whether a verb belongs to the “finir” group pattern ??
As a rule of thumb, many of these verbs actually describe the process of becoming (based on a noun or an adjective).
- La FIN = the end
FINIR (FIN + IR) is to become the end, to get to the end, therefore to finish.
- Gros, grosse = big
GROSSIR = to become big, to put on weight
- Rouge = red
ROUGIR = to become red, to redden, to blush
You can also refer to this exhaustive list of verbs.
Note: in French grammar, the _IR verbs conjugated like “finir” are called “les verbes du deuxième groupe”. You may never have heard about this “second group of verbs”, and there’s nothing to worry about : some French grammar is taught differently according to whether it’s addressed to native speakers or to learners of French as a foreign language!
B. Verbs like “partir”
The consonant before the –IR in the infinitive is often dropped in the singular forms (i.e je/tu/il) but reappears in the plural (nous/vous/ils forms).
- Partir : je pars, nous partons (the letter “t” is first dropped then reappears)
- Mentir : tu mens, vous mentez (the letter “t” is first dropped then reappears)
- Dormir : il dort, ils dorment ((the letter “m” is first dropped then reappears)
Note: although we’ve covered the verb endings, many verbs from this group will have an irregular stem when conjugated (eg. mourir, venir, voir, etc.).
3. Past participles of the –IR verbs
- Ouvrir (and its compound forms), souffrir and offrir
The past participles of these verbs end in “_ert” :
ouvert, souffert, offert
Example : J’ai ouvert (I opened), tu as souffert (you suffered), il a offert (he offered)
- Pouvoir, valoir, vouloir
The past participles of these verbs end in “_u”:
⇒ pu, valu, voulu
Example : j’ai voulu (I wanted), tu as pu (you have been able to)
- Verbs conjugated like “finir”
The past participles of these verbs will end in “_i “:
⇒ grossi, fini, rougi
Example : j’ai grossi (I’ve put on weight), tu as fini (you finished), vous avez rougi (you blushed)
- Other Verbs
The past participles of the other –IR verbs will vary : you have to learn them!
4. How to Conjugate French verbs in _IR : test yourself!
I’ve designed a free downloadable worksheet with exercises (and answers) to put you to the test!
Click here to get it.
I hope this helps! Let me know : what other questions or major pains do you have about French verbs?Get Worksheet