The present tense of regular -er verbs

Le présent des verbes du premier groupe: -er

Before studying the present tense in French, you need to be familiar with the
grammatical terms in chapters presenting verbs. To conjugate a verb in the present
tense, you’ll need to fi nd the root (or stem) of a verb to which you’ll add the
ending corresponding to the desired tense. Th e root of the verb is found in its
infinitive form. In English, the infi nitive is preceded by the preposition to: to say,
to wear. Infinitives in French are not preceded by an equivalent of the preposition
to. They are identifi ed according to groups by their endings: -er, -ir, -re, -oir.

Regular -er verbs in the present

Let’s start with the infi nitives of verbs of the fi rst group, ending in -er, such as
regarder (to look at) and chanter (to sing). Most verbs that end in -er in the infi nitive
follow the same conjugation. Th e pattern is easy. You remove the -er ending
of the verb to get the root: parler (to speak)  parl-. Th en, you add the endings
corresponding to the subject pronoun.
Th e endings for the -er regular verbs are: -e, -es, -e, -ons, -ez, -ent. Th e -e,
-es, and -ent endings of the verbs are all silent. Th e fi nal -s of nous, vous, ils, elles
links with verbs beginning with a vowel sound, making a z sound. Th is is called a
Let’s conjugate the verb parler (to speak). Note that, as in English, conjugated
forms are preceded by a subject pronoun:
je parle -> I speak
tu parles -> you speak 
il parle -> he speaks 
elle parle -> she speaks 
nous parlons -> we speak
vous parlez -> you speak
ils parlent -> they (m., m./f.) speak
elles parlent -> they (f.) speak
on parle -> one/they/we speak

Here are some questions using parler:

Parlez-vous italien? -> Do you speak Italian?
Combien de langues parles-tu? -> How many languages do you speak?

Chanter (to sing) follows the same pattern:
je chante I sing nous chantons we sing
tu chantes you sing vous chantez you sing
il chante he sings ils chantent they (m., m./f.) sing
elle chante she sings elles chantent they (f.) sing
on chante one/they/we sing

To recapitulate, here are the subject pronouns with their English equivalents:
je I
tu you (singular familiar)
il he, it (masculine)
elle she, it (feminine)
on one, we, they
nous we
vous you (singular formal and all plurals)
ils they (masculine or mixed masculine and feminine)
elles they (feminine)
Th ere are two ways of saying you in French. Use tu to talk to friends, family members, children,
and animals. Use vous when you are addressing a stranger, someone you don’t know well,
or to maintain a certain degree of distance or respect.
Th e pronoun on takes on diff erent meanings. It may mean one, we, or they depending on
how it is used. See the examples below.
Ici, on parle japonais. Japanese is spoken here.
On ne devrait pas se comporter ainsi. One should not behave this way.
On va au cinéma ce soir? (familiar) Shall we go to the movies tonight?
En Espagne, on mange des tapas. In Spain, they eat tapas.
On est tous d’accord. (familiar) We all agree.
Here are some common regular -er verbs:
accepter to accept
aimer to like, to love
annuler to cancel
apporter to bring
attraper to catch
augmenter to increase
bavarder to chat
casser to break
chercher to look for
commander to order
couper to cut
danser to dance
déjeuner to have lunch
demander to ask
dessiner to draw
donner to give
emprunter to borrow
enlever to remove
étudier to study
exprimer to express
gagner to win, to earn
garder to keep
habiter to live
laver to wash
manger to eat
mériter to deserve
oublier to forget
porter to carry
prêter to lend
refuser to refuse
regarder to watch
saluer to greet
sauter to jump
tomber to fall
travailler to work
visiter to visit (a place)

-er verbs with spelling and stem changes
Some -er verbs, otherwise regular, show spelling or stem changes in the present tense, largely to
maintain pronunciation. Th ese can be learned according to their groups.

Verbs ending in -cer
Some spelling changes occur with some -er regular verbs. With verbs ending in -cer, such as prononcer
(to pronounce) the -c- becomes -ç- before the letter o. Th e cedilla (ç) under the c is needed
to keep the soft pronunciation of the c in the infi nitive form.
je prononce I pronounce nous prononçons we pronounce
tu prononces you pronounce vous prononcez you pronounce
il/elle prononce he/she pronounces ils/elles prononcent they pronounce

Here are a few examples of other -cer verbs:
nous annonçons we announce
nous avançons we move forward
nous balançons we swing
nous commençons we start
nous défonçons we smash in
nous déplaçons we move
nous devançons we get ahead of
nous eff açons we erase
nous épiçons we spice
nous façonnons we craft , we manufacture
nous fi nançons we fi nance
nous grimaçons we make faces
nous infl uençons we infl uence
nous laçons we lace up, we tie
nous menaçons we threaten
nous perçons we pierce
nous plaçons we place
nous ponçons we sand
nous remplaçons we replace
nous renonçons we give up
Verbs ending in -ger
With verbs ending in -ger, such as voyager (to travel), the -g- becomes -ge- before the letter o.
je voyage I travel nous voyageons we travel
tu voyages you travel vous voyagez you travel
il/elle voyage he/she travels ils/elles voyagent they travel
Here are other common -ger verbs:
nous bougeons we move
nous changeons we change

nous corrigeons we correct
nous dégageons we release, we free
nous déménageons we move (house)
nous encourageons we encourage
nous exigeons we demand
nous hébergeons we host
nous mangeons we eat
nous mélangeons we mix
nous nageons we swim
nous négligeons we neglect
nous partageons we share
nous plongeons we dive
nous protégeons we protect
nous rangeons we put away
nous vengeons we avenge

Verbs ending in -e + consonant + -er
With some verbs composed of -e  consonant  -er, such as acheter (to buy), some accent changes
occur. An accent grave is added in all but the fi rst- and the second-person plural.
j’achète I buy nous achetons we buy
tu achètes you buy vous achetez you buy
il/elle achète he/she buys ils/elles achètent they buy

Here are a few other verbs following the same pattern:
achever j’achève I complete
emmener j’emmène I take along, I escort
enlever j’enlève I remove
lever je lève I raise
mener je mène I lead
peser je pèse I weigh
semer je sème I sow
With some verbs composed of -é  consonant  -er, such as répéter (to repeat), changes
may also occur. Th e é aigu changes to an è grave in all but the fi rst- and second-person plural.
je répète I repeat nous répétons we repeat
tu répètes you repeat vous répétez you repeat
il/elle répète he/she repeats ils/elles répètent they repeat
Here are a few other verbs following the same pattern:
céder je cède I yield
célébrer je célèbre I celebrate
considérer je considère I consider
déléguer je délègue I delegate
espérer j’espère I hope
exagérer j’exagère I exaggerate
gérer je gère I manage
lécher je lèche I lick
posséder je possède I own
préférer je préfère I prefer
révéler je révèle I reveal

Verbs ending in -e + l + -er
Some verbs composed of -e  l  -er, such as épeler (to spell), sometimes take two ls in all but the
fi rst- and second-person plural.
j’épelle I spell nous épelons we spell
tu épelles you spell vous épelez you spell
il/elle épelle he/she spells ils/elles épellent they spell
Here are a few other verbs following the same pattern:
appeler j’appelle I call
ensorceler j’ensorcelle I bewitch
étinceler j’étincelle I sparkle, I glitter
fi celer je fi celle I tie
niveler je nivelle I level
rappeler je rappelle I remind, I call back
renouveler je renouvelle I renew

When is the present tense used in French?
Th e present indicative is used in a number of ways:
To make a general statement and to describe ongoing actions in the present. It can be
translated in three diff erent ways.
Valérie parle à son ami Ludovic. Valérie is talking (talks, does talk) to her
friend Ludovic.
Il regarde les étoiles dans le ciel. He is looking (looks, does look) at the stars
in the sky.
To express a close future
Il part demain soir. He’ll leave tomorrow night.
On parle de cela en fi n de semaine. We’ll discuss this at the end of the week.
To express a habitual action
Tous les jours, le soleil se lève. Th e sun rises every day.
D’habitude, j’achète la viande dans Usually I buy meat in this butcher shop.
cette boucherie.
To describe a past action closely connected to the present
Claude revient d’Asie et c’est la Claude just returned from Asia and
pagaille au bureau! chaos started in the offi ce!
À peine rentrés et les problèmes Th ey have just come back and the problems
commencent déjà. have already started.
To express a historical fact
Flaubert publie Madame Bovary et Flaubert published Madame Bovary and
c’est le scandale! the scandal broke out!
Le président arrive en Chine et c’est Th e president arrived in China and it
la débâcle! was a complete disaster!
To describe past events more dramatically
La reine avance vers le trône. Th e queen moved toward the throne.
Et son pire ennemi entre dans la salle. And his worst enemy walked into the room.
To express an action in the process, être en train de  the infi nitive form of the verb
is used.
Un instant, s’il vous plaît, je suis en One moment, please, I am talking to Rémi.
train de parler à Rémi.
Qu’est-ce que tu es en train de faire? What are you doing?

One more use of the present tense: depuis
Th e present tense is used to express an action that began in the past and continues in the present.
Note that in English, the past tense is used. Th ere are diff erent ways to formulate the questions,
using either depuis, il y a... que, cela (ça) fait... que.
Let’s start with depuis. To ask a question about the duration of an action, use depuis quand
(since when) or depuis combien de temps (how long).
Depuis combien de temps habites-tu How long have you been living in Nice?
à Nice?
—J’habite à Nice depuis trois ans. —I have been living in Nice for three years.
Depuis quand travaillez-vous chez How long have you been working at L’Oréal?
—Je travaille chez L’Oréal depuis —I have been working at L’Oréal for three
trois mois. months.
Il y a combien de temps que vous How long have you known Mr. Blier?
connaissez M. Blier?
—Il y a quelques années que je connais —I have known Mr. Blier for a few years.
M. Blier.
Ça fait combien de temps que vous How long have you had this dictionary?
avez ce dictionnaire?
—Ça fait cinq ans que j’ai ce —I have had this dictionary for fi ve years.