French Irregular Verbs

Rachel Hanson
<em>Elle dort</em>

For anyone learning French, the French irregular verbs can be a major job. While some of the irregular verbs follow regular patterns, some of the irregular verbs are, well, irregular.

For these non-patterned irregular verbs, one must simply sit down and learn the entire verbal paradigm. In order to make this as small of a job as possible, it's a good idea to learn the irregular verb patterns first, and then deal with the verbs that show no pattern whatsoever.

French Irregular Verb Patterns

While there are several regular French verb conjugations, there are also verbs that fall outside these regular conjugations. Luckily, many of the verbs that fall outside the regular conjugations are still subject to a certain pattern.

Irregular -RE Verb Patterns

There are several different groups of irregular -RE verbs, meaning verbs that end with the letters 're'.

  • Prendre is a French verb that takes one of the -re irregular patterns. In order to produce the correct present tense form of this irregular verb, one removes the -re ending and then adds the following endings:
  1. Je: s
  2. Tu: s
  3. Il/elle/on: ---
  4. Nous: ons (take off the final 'd' of the root before adding the ending)
  5. Vous: ez (take off the final 'd' of the root before adding the ending)
  6. Ils/elles: ent (take off the final 'd' of the root and add a second 'n' before adding the ending)
  • Mettre: is a French verb that takes another of the -RE verb patterns. Using the stem (Met), add the following endings:
  1. Je: s
  2. Tu: s
  3. Il/elle/on: ---
  4. Nous: ons (add the second 't' back onto the root before adding the ending)
  5. Vous: ez (add the second 't' back onto the root before adding the ending)
  6. Ils/elles: ent (add the second 't' back onto the root before adding the ending)
  • Rompre belongs to yet another pattern of conjugating irregular -RE verbs. The stem is romp, to which the following endings should be added:
  1. Je: s
  2. Tu: s
  3. Il/elle/on: t
  4. Nous: ons
  5. Vous: ez
  6. Ils/elles: ent
  • Verbs ending in eindre, aindre or oindre (such as peindre, plaindre, and joindre) are a bit tricky. The stem does not include the 'd' of the root in any form; in addition, a 'g' is added before the 'n' in the three plural forms (nous, vous, and ils/elles):
  1. Je: s
  2. Tu: s
  3. Il/elle/on: t
  4. Nous: ons
  5. Vous: ez
  6. Ils/elles: ent

Because this one is complicated in applying the rules, here is the conjugation of peindre:

  • Je peins
  • Tu peins
  • Il/elle/on peint
  • Nous peignons
  • Vous peignez
  • Ils peignent

Irregular -IR Verb Patterns

Another verb ending with a lot of irregular verbs, including a few that follow distinct patterns, is the 'IR' ending.

  • Dormir: Verbs like dormir, partir, sentir, sortir, servir, mentir are all conjugated along the following pattern by taking the ir as well as the one letter preceding the 'ir' ending off in order to acquire the stem, and then applying the following endings:
  1. Je: s
  2. Tu: s
  3. Il/elle/on: t
  4. Nous: ons (add the letter preceding the 'ir' ending back on before adding this ending)
  5. Vous: ez (add the letter preceding the 'ir' ending back on before adding this ending)
  6. Ils/elles: ent (add the letter preceding the 'ir' ending back on before adding this ending)
  • Couvrir: Verbs like cueillir, découvrir, souffrir, offrir, ouvrir follow this pattern. Though these verbs have a different infinitive, they are conjugated exactly like regular er verbs; take off the 'ir' ending and add the following endings:
  1. Je: e
  2. Tu: es
  3. Il/elle/on: e
  4. Nous: ons
  5. Vous: ez
  6. Ils/elles: ent

There are still som French irregular verbs that follow none of these patterns. While this makes these verbs difficult to learn, these verbs are very frequent in the French language. Some examples of this category of irregular verbs are vouloir, pouvoir, venir, aller, tenir, lire, dire, vivre, suivre, etc. Since these verbs show up very often, learning them is a matter of observing the verb forms present in the language you see and hear. A little bit of careful observation, spread out over a long period of exposure to the French language, will result in thorough acquisition of French, even the conjugations of irregular French verbs.

French Irregular Verbs