The Present Tense
The present tense is the most commonly used tense in any language, including French. The group of verbs known as "ir verbs" comprises the second largest group of verbs in the French language, and so conjugating them is very important. You can read about the first group, er verbs, and more on the present tense, in this article.
Using ir verbs in the present tense is no different from er verbs. They are still equivalent to the English tenses of "I speak," "I am speaking," and "I do speak," though there is only one French version for all three. So, how do you know if a verb is an ir verb? Just look at the last two letters of the verb in its infinitive form (sometimes referred to as "dictionary form" as that is how it will appear in a dictionary.) If it ends with the letters ir, then it is an ir verb.
In this article, we are covering regular ir verbs, such as finir (to finish) or choisir (to choose). Certain ir verbs, such as venir (to come), are irregular, and those will be covered elsewhere.
Conjugating in the Present Tense
To conjugate an ir verb in the present tense, you must first get the stem, or root, of the verb. This is done simply by removing the ir from the end. For example, with the verb finir, after removing the ir, you are left with fin, the stem. At this point, you add an ending to the verb, depending on the subject. Just like English, where we say "I go" but "she goes," verbs in French conjugate differently depending on their subject. Here are the endings for the present tense:
Subject | Ending
je | -is
tu | -is
il/elle/on | -it
nous | -issons
vous | -issez
ils/elles | -issent
After adding the ending to the stem, you have the full verb. While you see some similarities to er verbs and their endings, it is important to remember the differences. Here is the verb finir conjugated in the present tense:
je finis (I finish)
tu finis (you finish)
il/elle/on finit (he/she/one finishes)
nous finissons (we finish)
vous finissez (you finish)
ils/elles finissent (they finish)
Given that there is only one present tense in French that translates to three different English tenses, it is definitely not too difficult to learn! With both er verbs and ir verbs under your belt, you will find that you can conjugate the majority of regular verbs in the French language. Just make sure you remember the endings, and you will be good to go.
Examples and Exercises
Here are some more examples of regular ir verbs, along with translations for each:
Je choisis le film le samedi. (I choose the movie on Saturdays.)
Tu nourris ton chat tous les jours. (You feed your cat every day.)
Il n'obéit pas à ses parents. (He doesn't obey his parents.)
Nous ne finissons pas l'examen. (We're not finishing the test.)
Vous agissez comme des enfants. (You're acting like children.)
Elles vieillissent vite. (They're growing old quickly.)
Now it's your turn. Try to conjugate the ir verb in parenthesis for each sentence.
Je _________ mon chien. (punir)
Tu _________ un avion en papier. (bâtir)
Elle __________. (réfléchir)
Nous ____________ souvent. (rougir)
Vous ____________ toujours! (maigrir)
Ils ____________ trop vite. (grandir)
Check your work against the earlier examples to see if you conjugated the verbs correctly.