[cours] [fiches de grammaire]

Le verbe / The verb

This is a very difficult area for the foreign student, one of the resons being that the French verb contains so much information within one small word!

The basic form of the verb is the infinitive. The infinitive is the form of the verb you'll find in the dictionary. It is the form we use when we want to talk about a verb. We need it because each verb in French has so many different forms that it would be impossible to put all of them in a dictionary! The form of the verb changes when its subject changes, when the tense changes and when the mood changes. But in spite of all these different forms, we still recognize each individual verb. How do we do? It's easy: only one part of the verb changes, its ending. The main part, the root, is always more or less the same (especially for regular verbs). Here are a few examples:


chanter (to sing)

present tense:

je chante (I sing)

nous chantons (we sing)

simple past tense:

tu chantais (you sang)

vous chantiez (you sang: plural or formal form)


qu'il chante (let him sing)

qu'ils chantent (let them sing)


As you can see above, the root chant- is always the same, and only the endings -er, -e, -ons, -ais, -iez, -e,     -ent are different.

The root gives you the meaning of the verb, the ending gives you information about the subject, the tense (past, present, future), the aspect (finished or not finished), etc.

Confusing? Well, the good news is that you don't need to memorize all this at once. This semester (French 1), you'll only learn present tense, mostly with regular verbs, as well as a few irregular ones.

[cours] [fiches de grammaire]