Present Tense in French

Present Tense

The present tense in French translates the present tense in English and also the Present continuous. The video is

I sing and I am singing can be translated by Je chante (present tense) (you can have a look at the lesson about the Present continuous in French)

As usual, we have regular and irregular verbs; however the regular ones are by far the most numerous. Let’s see our 3 groups of verbs:

1st Group, Verb with –er endings:

Chanter: to sing, the stem is “chant”

Je chant e I sing
Tu chant es You sing
Il chant e He sings
Elle chant e She sings
On chant e We sing
Nous chant ons We sing
Vous chant ez You sing
Ils chant ent They sing (boys)
Elles chant ent They sing (girls)


As you can see, we have a new subject, the subject “on”, we use it a lot instead of “we” in French, so we say: “on va au cinéma” or “nous allons au cinéma” (we go to the cinema).

Pay attention to the subject “vous” as it can be several things:

–          Vous can be the plural of “tu”, we use “tu” with friends, people we know or on an informal way, and if you speak to several friends, you will say “vous”.
To one friend: tu vas bien? (are you well?) and to several friends: vous allez bien?

–          Vous is also the formal way to speak to people, with people you don’t know, your teacher or your boss for example: “comment allez-vous?” how are you?  And if you speak to several people at the same time on a formal way, you will also use “vous”. As you can see it is much easier in English!

To translate “they”, we have two subjects depending if you are speaking about boys or girls, if you speak about a group of boys and girls, you will say “ils”.

We have a lot of verbs in this group: manger (to eat), regarder (to watch), chanter (to sing), marcher (to walk) and they are all regular.

Let’s see now this totally irregular verb in this category, verbs with –er endings, the verb to go.

Aller: to go

Je vais
Tu vas
Il va
Elle va
On va
Nous allons
Vous allez
Ils vont
Elles vont

There are more irregular verbs but just because the stem is changing.

Appeler: to call

Tu appelles
Il, elle, on appelle
Nous appelons
Vous appelez
Ils, ells appellent

As you can see, appeler and also rappeler (to call back, to remember) get two L.

Jeter: to throw

Je jette
Tu jettes
Il, elle, on jette
Nous jetons
Vous jetez
Ils, elles jettent

Here, two T (jeter, rejeter…)

Acheter: to buy (and all the verbs ending in -eter, except jeter)

Tu achètes
Il, elle, on achète
Nous achetons
Vous achetez
Ils, elles achètent

Payer (and all the verbs in –ayer): to pay

Je paie
Tu paies
il, elle, on paie
Nous payons
Vous payez
Ils, ells paient

But they can also be conjugated as a regular verb: je paye, tu payes…

Envoyer (all verbs in –oyer): to send

Tu envoies
il, elle, on envoie
Nous envoyons
Vous envoyez
Ils, elles envoient

S’ennuyer (all verbs in –uyer): to get bored

Je m’ennuie: I get bored
Tu t’ennuies
Il, elle, on s’ennuie
Nous nous ennuyons
Vous vous ennuyez
ils, ells s’ennuient


2nd Group, Verbs with –re endings:

Finir: to finish, the stem is “fin”

Je finis
Tu finis
Il, elle, on finit
Nous finissons
Vous finissez
Ils, elles finissent

3rd Group, Verbs with –ir endings:


Irregular verbs: some have a shorter stem for the first forms, for example to sleep, the stem for “dormir” is “dor”, so we have:

Je dors
Tu dors
Il dort
Nous dormons
Vous dormez
Ils dorment

The same thing for sortir, to go out:

Je sors
Tu sors
Il sort
Nous sortons
Vous sortez
Ils sortent

Some conjugate like the verbs ending with –er:

Ouvrir: to open

Tu ouvres
Il ouvre
Nous ouvrons
Vous ouvrez
Ils ouvrent

And others do not follow any pattern like vouloir (to want), savoir (to know)…

Vouloir: to want

Je veux
Tu veux
Il veut
Nous voulons
Vous voulez
Ils veulent

Savoir: to know

Je sais
Tu sais
Il sait
Nous savons
Vous savez
Ils savent

Voir: to see

Je vois
Tu vois
Il voit
Nous voyons
Vous voyez
Ils voient

Perdre: to lose

Je perds
Tu perds
Il perd
Nous perdons
Vous perdez
Ils perdent

There are not many verbs in this category: Vendre (to sell), attendre (to wait)…

Flashcards: Review the Present Tense of: to be, to have, to sleep, to know in French

And of course the verbs to be and to have:

Être: to be

Je suis
Tu es
Il est
Nous sommes
Vous êtes
Ils sont

Avoir: to have

Tu as
Il a
Nous avons
Vous avez
Ils ont

As you can see these verbs are important, so you will have to learn them.

Negative form:

I don’t sing, we use two words “ne … pas” and the FIRST verb of your sentence in the middle (of course for the present tense there is only one verb, but remember this rule when you see the passé compose).

Je ne chante pas (when we speak, we don’t say “ne”, just je chante pas)
Tu ne chantes pas
Il ne chante pas
Nous ne chantons pas
Vous ne chantez pas
ils ne chantent pas

Je ne finis pas
Tu ne finis pas…

Je ne sais pas (when we speak, you can hear something like “shépa”, it is not a new word, it is the contraction of “je ne sais pas”)


We have 3 forms, 2 are correct when you write and the third one is when you speak.

What do you sing or what are you singing?

1. Qu’est-ce que tu chantes?
It is easy to understand you just add “qu’est-ce que” before any sentence
Qu’est-ce qu’il chante?
Qu’est ce que nous chantons?
Qu’est-ce que vous chantez
Qu’est-ce qu’ils chantent

2. Que chantes-tu?
Que chante-t-il? (we add a “t” for the pronunciation)
Que chantons-nous?
Que chantez-vous?
Que chantent-ils?

3. Tu chantes quoi? (this one is when you speak)
Il chante quoi?
Nous chantons quoi?…

When do you sing? Or when will you sing?

Quand est-ce que je chante?
Quand est-ce que tu chantes?…

Quand chantes-tu?…
Tu chantes quand?

Where are you?

Où est-ce que tu es?
Où est ce qu’il est?…

Où es-tu?
Où est-il?…
Tu es où?…

Why are you coming?

Pourquoi est-ce que je viens?
Pourquoi est-ce que tu viens?…

Pourquoi viens-tu?
Pourquoi vient-il?…
Tu viens pourquoi?

How are you doing?

Comment est-ce que tu vas?…
Comment vas-tu?
Comment va-t-il?
Tu vas comment?

Who are you?

Qui est-ce que tu es?
Qui es-tu?
Tu es qui?
C’est qui? Means who’s that?

Pascal Dherve

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Pascal Dherve

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