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Irregular Verbs in French in the Present Tense

written by: Tommy Carlton • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 12/31/2013

While there are several groups of regular verbs in French, there are many verbs that do not fit into those groups. These are irregular verbs, and they are often very common, so they are important to learn. Learn how to conjugate them in the present tense.

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    What Is an Irregular Verb?

    In the French language, there are several irregular verbs which appear quite often in everyday use. These verbs follow conjugation French Flag patterns that are not the same as the regular conjugation patterns in some or all forms of the verb. However, there are still several recognizable patterns present. For example, where the ils/elles regular ending typically contains ent, the irregular ending will usually contain ont. Also, the vous ending in irregular verbs often contains an ez just like the regular ending, making it more easily recognizable as a vous-form conjugation. But, as they are irregular verbs, keep in mind that not all of them will follow these patterns, which is why they are labeled irregular verbs in the first place.

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    Common Irregular Verbs

    Here are five of the most common irregular verbs:

    être (to be)

    faire (to do/to make)

    aller (to go)

    avoir (to have)

    venir (to come)

    Below you will find them conjugated in the present tense:

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    • je suis
    • tu es
    • il/elle/on est
    • nous sommes
    • vous êtes
    • ils/elles sont

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    • je fais
    • tu fais
    • il/elle/on fait
    • nous faisons
    • vous faites
    • ils/elles font

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    • je vais
    • tu vas
    • il/elle/on va
    • nous allons
    • vous allez
    • ils/elles vont

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    • j'ai
    • tu as
    • il/elle a
    • nous avons
    • vous avez
    • ils/elles ont

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    • je viens
    • tu viens
    • il/elle/on vient
    • nous venons
    • vous venez
    • ils/elles viennent

    You can see several patterns within the verbs compared with both the regular verb groups and other irregular verbs, and this helps cut down on the memorization necessary for them. However, it is important to learn all of the forms individually because these are very common verbs and ones you will see and use quite often.

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    Expressions With Avoir

    One of the irregular verbs we learned, avoir, is also part of several expressions in the French language. Some of these use the verb to have in English, but many do not, so it is important to memorize the expression for its actual meaning and not the literal translation. For example, avoir faim means to be hungry. If you translate the sentence j'ai faim as I'm hungry, it sounds very natural. If you use the literal translation, on the other hand of I have hunger, then it sounds quite odd. This concept applies to most expressions you will learn in French, so be sure to memorize the meaning of the phrases instead of the literal translations.

    • avoir faim (to be hungry)
    • avoir soif (to be thirsty)
    • avoir sommeil (to be tired)
    • avoir peur (to be afraid)
    • avoir raison (to be right/correct)
    • avoir tort (to be wrong/incorrect)
    • avoir mal (to be sick/not feel good)
    • avoir chaud (to be hot)
    • avoir froid (to be cold)
    • avoir ___ ans (to be ___ years old)

    Simply conjugate the verb for your subject, and you can apply this expression to anyone. For example, to say She is tired, we take the word for she, elle, and conjugate avoir for it, giving us elle a; then we add sommeil to the end. The final sentence is Elle a sommeil, which mean She is tired.