Beginners French: The Tenses: -ER Verbs

Updated on April 28, 2018

The French language has something known as a 'conjugation system'. This means that in order for you to say "I eat" (je mange) and "you eat" (tu manges) you have to change the verb ending of the verb that you used (manger = to eat). In this case, it was the addition of an extra "s" onto "mange" in "tu manges." As you can see, no such change is made in English (I eat, you eat), but similarly, a change is seen in third person "he/she/it eats" in the present tense.

Changes in the verb endings must be made when using verbs with the pronouns: "I" "you" "he/she/it" "we" "you (plural)" and "they".

But don't worry! There are simple rules that unify all of the verb endings, and after remembering these (and a few irregular endings) you will have a firm grasp of French grammar! Remember also that there there are different verb endings for each tense, so a different one for past, present, and future tenses.

Interesting Fact: The English language also used to have a conjugation system (a declension system) like the other European languages, but lost it around 1550 because it was easier that way! Lucky French students!

-ER verbs

-ER verbs are verbs that end in 'er' instead of anything else. A few examples include:

  • manger - to eat
  • jouer - to play
  • parler - to speak

Conjugating!
The verb "jouer" is taken as an example in the table below. If you wish to conjugate other "-er" verbs, just add the endings to the stem (the verb without the "-er") of the verb and add the appropriate endings. Try to memorise all of the verb endings because they will be used in every single french sentence you hear!

For an example of conjugation: "he eats" is "il manges" and "they would speak French" is "ils parleraient français".

Future and Conditional Tense
For the future and conditional tense, it is necessary to use the infinitive of the verb before adding on the necessary endings (see below). The infinite form is the one including the "-er" and is the form of the verb you would see in a dictionary.

Pronouns:
je =
"I"
tu = "you"
il/elle/on = "he/she/it"
Nous =
"we"
vous =
"you (plural)"
Ils/elles = "they (masculine)/they (feminine)".

For -ER verbs: the endings for each tense go as follows:

  • Present: (stem +) "e, es, e, ons, ez, ent"
  • Imperfect: (stem +) "ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient"
  • Future Simple: (infinitive +) "ai, as, a, ons, ez, ont"
  • Conditional: (infinitive +) "ais ais ait ions iez aient"

Note: Imperfect and conditional share the same endings, but conditional uses the endings on top of the infinitive form of the verb whereas imperfect uses the stem.

ER verb endings for the verb "jouer" - to play

Pronoun
Present Tense
Future (simple) Tense
Past (passé composé) Tense
Imperfect Tense
Conditional Tense
 
je
jouE
jouerAI
ai joué
jouAIS
jouerAIS
 
tu
jouES
jouerAS
as joué
jouAIS
jouerAIS
 
il/elle/on
jouE
jouerA
a joué
jouAIT
joueAIT
 
nous
jouONS
jouerONS
avons joué
jouIONS
jouerIONS
 
vous
jouEZ
jouerEZ
avez joué
jouIEZ
jouerIEZ
 
ils/elles
jouENT
jouerONT
ont joué
jouAIENT
jouerAIENT
 

Questions & Answers

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      • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR

        DK 

        6 years ago from London

        Thank you very much Zak and Khali Khan! :)

      • profile image

        khalil khan the bucket 

        6 years ago

        woooooooooo best french site ever

      • profile image

        zak 

        6 years ago

        this is amazing

      • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR

        DK 

        6 years ago from London

        Thank you very much! :)

      • suziecat7 profile image

        suziecat7 

        6 years ago from Asheville, NC

        I grew up in a French-Canadian household and didn't speak much English until I was second grade. Great Hub!

      • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR

        DK 

        6 years ago from London

        Thank you very much Shara63! I'm très (very) glad to hear that!

      • shara63 profile image

        Farhat 

        6 years ago from Delhi

        wonderful hub! this simple but effective way of the lesson has derived an interest in me for learning French.....thanks Philanthropy2012!

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