French Grammar For Dummies
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Many verbs have an -ir ending, but not all of them play nice! Some verbs don’t follow the regular conjugating patterns. They are irregular, and many of them actually don’t follow much of a pattern at all!

How to conjugate short French -ir verbs

About 30 -ir verbs don’t follow the regular -ir conjugation pattern of finir. These are short verbs because they lack the -iss part of the plural endings that regular -ir verbs have. To conjugate such -ir verbs, the easiest way is to separate the singular forms (je, tu, il/elle/on) from the plural (nous, vous, ils/elles).

Here’s how to conjugate the present tense of short -ir verbs for the je, tu, and il/elle/on forms:

  1. Drop the -ir ending as well as the final consonant before it.

    For example, for the verb partir (to leave), you take off -tir, so you’re left with par-.

  2. Now add the ending that fits your subject: -s, -s, or -t.

    In the example, you wind up with this: je pars, tu pars, il/elle/on part.

Here’s how to conjugate the present tense of short -ir verbs for the nous, vous, and ils/elles forms:
  1. Drop only the -ir of the infinitive to get the stem.

    For example, for the verb partir, you take off -ir, so you’re left with part-.

  2. Now add the ending -ons, -ez, or -ent.

    You wind up with this: nous partons, vous partez, ils/elles partent.

The following tables give you an example of the short -ir conjugation, next to a regular -ir verb conjugation so you can clearly see the missing -iss in the plural . The short -ir verb is partir, and the long one grandir.
je pars nous partons
tu pars vous partez
il/elle/on part ils/elles partent
je grandis nous grandissons
tu grandis vous grandissez
il/elle/on grandit ils/elles grandissent
Other examples of short -ir verbs include dormir (to sleep), se sentir (to feel), sortir (to go out), and servir (to serve).

French -ir verbs that behave like -er verbs

Some -ir verbs behave like -er verbs. To conjugate them, you drop the -ir ending, like you would with a regular verb like finir. Then you add, well, the regular -er verb endings: -e, -es, -e, -ons, -ez, and -ent! Here’s the complete conjugation of one such verb, ouvrir (to open).
j’ouvre nous ouvrons
tu ouvres vous ouvrez
il/elle/on ouvre ils/elles ouvrent
Other verbs of this type include découvrir (to discover), offrir (to offer), and souffrir (to suffer).

The French verbs venir and tenir

Finally, you meet a special group of verbs: venir (to come), tenir (to hold), and all their siblings (called compound verbs because they are formed with a prefix + venir or tenir). Such verbs include: se souvenir (to remember), devenir (to become), revenir (to come back), appartenir (to belong), and soutenir (to support).

To conjugate these irregular -ir verbs, drop the -enir of the infinitive and replace it with -iens, -iens, -ient, -enons, -enez, or -iennent. The following tables give you the complete present tense conjugation of venir and tenir.

je viens nous venons
tu viens vous venez
il/elle/on vient ils/elles viennent
je tiens nous tenons
tu tiens vous tenez
Il/elle/on tient ils/elles tiennent
The je, tu, il/elle/on, and ils/elles forms have the same stem (-ien + ending), whereas the nous and vous forms have the same stem as the infinitive (-en).

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Véronique Mazet has a doctorate in French from the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of two successful grammar books. She currently teaches French at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas.

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