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About French tenses

 

In French, like in most European languages, verbs must be conjugated to agree with their subject and to express the time of the action or the state of affairs referred to in the sentence. This is usually done by keeping the stem of the verb, which can vary, and attaching an ending to it.

In French, conjugations can be of two kinds: simple or compound. The first one is called "simple form" because it only consists of the verb conjugated (stem + correct ending). The second one is called "compound form" because the auxiliary verbs être and avoir are used to build them. In compound conjugations, only the auxiliary verbs are conjugated, whereas the form of the verb is always the past participle. All French verbs use either être or avoir in compound tenses, but some verbs can use both, in which case the meaning is different:

e.g.: je suis sorti. I went out. But j'ai sorti les poubelles. I threw the rubbish out.

e.g.: je suis monté à l'étage. I went upstairsBut j'ai monté le café à l'étage. I brought the coffee upstairs.

It is common to say that action verbs usually require avoir whereas state verbs and verbs of movement require être. If conjugated with être, note that the past participle must agree with the subject. With avoir, the past participle does not agree with the subject, but it does agree with the direct object when the latter comes before avoir. Pronominal verbs always use être.

French verbs are usually categorized in four moods: indicativeimperative, conditional and subjonctive.

"Infinitive" is the name given to the dictionary form of the verb (when it is not conjugated). You can easily recognize the infinitive form of French verbs : the endings are always -er, -ir or -re.

 

Indicative

 

Present min

Present

J'étudie le français

Imparfait min

Imperfect

J'étudiais le français

Passesimple min

Past simple

J'étudiai le français

Futursimple min

Future Simple

J'étudierai le français

Passecompose min

Compound past

J'ai étudié le français

Plusqueparfait min

Pluperfect

J'avais étudié le français

Passeanterieur min

Past anterior

J'eus étudié le français

Futuranterieur min

Future anterior

J'aurai étudié le français

 

Imperative

 
 

Present min

Present

Etudie le français !

 
 

Conditional

 
 

Present min

Present

J'étudierais le français

Passe min

Past

J'aurais étudié le français

 
 

Subjonctive

 

Present min

Present

... que j'étudie le français

(soon)

Imparfait min

Imperfect

... que j'étudiasse le français

(soon)

Plusqueparfait min

Pluperfect

... que j'eusse étudié le français

(soon)

Passe min

Past

... que j'eus étudié le français

(soon)