The French verb partir is one of the most common French verbs but it can be difficult for French learners to master. In addition to being an irregular verb, it has a few different meanings when paired with various prepositions. It is an intransitive verb and this is perhaps the key distinction between it, and other verbs used for "to leave." For native speakers, the verb poses no problems; for French learners, the verb can throw a curve ball.
The French verb partir is an irregular verb but is conjugated similar to a group of verbs -ir verbs making it easier to memorize. Other verbs in this group are sortir and dormir. These are also common verbs, and with enough use, the French language learner will have no trouble memorizing its conjugation.
The key to remembering the conjugation of partir is to remember the 's, s, t' pattern for singular conjugations:
Unlike 'ER' verbs, where the je and the il form are identical, here, the je and tu forms are identical. In spoken French, neither the 's' nor the 't' is pronounced, so je pars would be pronounced identically.
The plural form of partir is conjugated by taking the root (in this case part) and adding on regular -er endings:
French Verb Partir in a Sentence
General Everyday Usages of Partir
- Je pars: I'm leaving (more definitive than the informal je m'en vais).
- Je pars pour le week-end: I'm leaving for the weekend.
- Elle part au Canada: She's leaving for Canada.
- Il est parti une année en Afrique: He spent a year in Africa.
- Nous partons en vacances: We're leaving on vacation.
- Puisque tu pars…: Because you're leaving (title of a pop song)
Idiomatic Everyday Usage of the Verb
- C'est parti!: It has begun (this expression is a very common one and is sometimes used with a negative connotation, e.g. 'now that's she's started, we'll never get her to stop.')
- Mon mari est parti: My husband has left me (in expressions where he's left for the weekend or for a month instead of having left his wife, the expression would always be followed by a complement, e.g. mon mari est parti au Canada or mon mari est parti étudier en Suisse).
- Elle est partie: she died (you have to know the context to know here that she died and not that she left).
Using the Verb Partir
The verb partir has many things in common with the verb sortir. Not only are the two verbs part of the same group of conjugations, but they have similar meanings that are sometimes difficult to disentangle. While sortir means to go out for something shortly or take something else out, partir refers to longer sojourns away.An important difference between these two verbs is that partir can only be used intransitively - it cannot take a direct object. However, you can add a causative construction equivalent to 'make it go' or 'make it go off' in order to express something that requires a direct object of the verb:
- Il a fait partir sa femme: He drove his wife to leave.
Once you have mastered the different ways to use the verb, you'll also want to make sure you get the conjugations right. The present tense can easily be learned, but the rest of the tenses may require some work. The good news is that sortir, mentir, dormir and sentir are all conjugated exactly the same way, so learning the paradigm will give you several verbs to use, not just partir.