Le présent: the present tense in French grammar

What is le présent?

The present tense in French grammar (le présent) corresponds to the English simple present. It talks about facts, current situations and repeated actions in the present, as well as scheduled future actions. To conjugate a verb in the French present tense, we add specific endings to the infinitive of the verb depending on whether it ends in -er, -ir or -re.

Learn all about le présent in French grammar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Zeichnung

Le garçon s’appelle Félix. Tous les mardis, il va à l’entraînement de football. Il joue au football depuis cinq ans.

Mardi prochain à 14 heures, son équipe a un match important.

When to use le présent

We use the French present tense to express:

  • facts and ongoing situations in the present
Example:
Le garçon s’appelle Félix.The boy is called Félix.
  • actions that happen once, multiple times or never in the present
Example:
Tous les mardis, il va à l’entraînement de football.He goes to football training every Tuesday..
  • a future action that is already planned or agreed upon (requires a specific future time indicator)
Example:
Mardi prochain à 14 heures, son équipe a un match important.His team has an important match next Tuesday at 2 o’clock.
  • the duration of actions that started in the past and are ongoing in the present.
    Note: French uses the present tense to express this idea, but English talks about duration using the present perfect simple or continuous tenses.
Example:
Il joue au football depuis cinq ans.He’s been playing football for five years..
here il joue = he’s been playing or he’s played

How to conjugate the present tense in French

To conjugate French verbs in the present tense, we remove the infinitive ending (-er, -ir or -re) and add the following endings:

Person -er Verbs Type 1
-ir
Verbs
Type 2
-ir Verbs
-re Verbs
1st person singular (I) -e -is -s -s
2nd person singular (you) -es -is -s -s
3rd person singular (he/she/it) -e -it -t -t / –
1st person plural (we) -ons -issons -ons -ons
2nd person plural (you) -ez -issez -ez -ez
3rd person plural (they) -ent -issent -ent -ent

-er Verbs

The table below shows the present tense conjugation of -er verbs:

Person Ending aimer chanter
1st person singular (I) -e j’aime je chante
2nd person singular (you) -es tu aimes tu chantes
3rd person singular (he/she/it) -e il/elle/on aime il/elle/on chante
1st person plural (we) -ons nous aimons nous chantons
2nd person plural (you) -ez vous aimez vous chantez
3rd person plural (they) -ent ils/elles aiment ils/elles chantent

Spelling Rules and Exceptions

  • For verbs ending in -ger, we add an e before the letter o in the nous form in order to preserve the pronunciation of the g.
Example:
mangereat - je mange, tu manges, il/elle/on mange, nous mangeons, vous mangez, ils/elles mangent
  • For verbs ending in -cer, the c becomes ç before the letter o in the nous form in order to preserve pronunciation.
Example:
lancerthrow - je lance, tu lances, il/elle/on lance, nous lançons, vous lancez, ils/elles lancent
  • For verbs ending in -yer, the y becomes an i in the singular forms as well as in the 3rd person plural. (For verbs ending in -ayer, we can write either i or y.)
Examples:
envoyersend - j'envoie, tu envoies, il envoie, nous envoyons, vous envoyez, ils/elles envoient
payerpay - je paye/paie
  • For many verbs that end in -eler or -eter, the final consonant is doubled before a silent e.
    (Exceptions: acheterbuy, décelerdiscover, gelerfreeze, haleterpant, harcelerharass, modelermodel, pelerpeel)
Examples:
jeterthrow away – il jette
appelercall – il appelle
(but: acheter - j'achète)
  • If the final syllable of the word stem contains an e or é, we give it a grave accent (accent grave) in its conjugated forms (apart from the 1st and 2nd person plural).
Example:
peserweigh - je pèse, tu pèses, il/elle/on pèse, nous pesons, vous pesez, ils/elles pèsent
acheterbuy - j'achète, tu achètes, il/elle/on achète, nous achetons, vous achetez, ils/elles achètent
cédergive in - je cède, tu cèdes, il/elle/on cède, nous cédons, vous cédez, ils/elles cèdent
Example:
allergo - je vais, tu vas, il/elle/on va, nous allons, vous allez, ils/elles vont

Type 1 -ir Verbs

The majority of -ir verbs belong to type 1, which means that the plural forms add -iss- before the present tense endings:

Person Ending finir agir
1st person singular (I) -is je finis j’agis
2nd person singular (you) -is tu finis tu agis
3rd person singular (he/she/it) -it il/elle/on finit il/elle/on agit
1st person plural (we) -issons nous finissons nous agissons
2nd person plural (you) -issez vous finissez vous agissez
3rd person plural (they) -issent ils/elles finissent ils/elles agissent

Many common verbs are conjugated in this way: applaudirapplaud, choisirchoose, divertiramuse, fleurirbloom, grandirgrow, grossirput on weight, guérircure, haïrhate, maigrirlose weight, nourrirnourish/feed, obéirobey, pâlirgo pale, punirpunish, ralentirslow down, remplir(re)fill, réjouircelebrate, réunirmeet, réussirsucceed, rougirblush, saisirgrasp, vieillirto age, etc.

Type 2 -ir Verbs

Type 2 -ir verbs can be divided into two kinds: verbs that are conjugated in the same way as -er verbs, and verbs that are conjugated with -s/-s/-t in the singular forms

Person Ending offrir* Ending dormir**
1st person singular (I) -e j’offre -s je dors
2nd person singular (you) -es tu offres -s tu dors
3rd person singular (he/she/it) -e il/elle/on offre -t il/elle/on dort
1st person plural (we) -ons nous offrons -ons nous dormons
2nd person plural (you) -ez vous offrez -ez vous dormez
3rd person plural (they) -ent ils/elles offrent -ent ils/elles dorment

*Other verbs that follow the same conjugation include: accueillirwelcome, couvrircover, cueillirgather, découvrirdiscover, ouvriropen, souffrirsuffer, etc.

**Other verbs that follow the same conjugation include: courirrun, fuirrun away, mentirlie, partirleave, sentirfeel, servirserve, sortirgo out, etc.

Note: the verbs venir and tenir are completely irregular.

Examples:
venircome - je viens, tu viens, il/elle/on vient, nous venons, vous venez, ils/elles viennent
tenirhold - je tiens, tu tiens, il/elle/on tient, nous tenons, vous tenez, ils/elles tiennent

-re Verbs

Regular -re verbs are conjugated as follows:

Person Ending construire* vivre**
1st person singular (I) -s je construis je vis
2nd person singular (you) -s tu construis tu vis
3rd person singular (he/she/it) -t il/elle/on construit il/elle/on vit
1st person plural (we) -ons nous construisons nous vivons
2nd person plural (you) -ez vous construisez vous vivez
3rd person plural (they) -ent ils/elles construisent ils/elles vivent

* The following verbs are conjugated in the same way as construire: conduiredrive, cuirecook, déduirededuce, détruiredestroy, instruireinstruct, introduireintroduce, nuireharm, produireproduce, reproduirereproduce, réduirereduce, séduireseduce, traduiretranslate.

** The following verbs are conjugated in the same way as vivre: suivrefollow, poursuivrechase, revivrerelive, survivresurvive.

Spelling Rules & Exceptions

  • Verbs ending in -aître (traditional spelling) or -aitre (official spelling since 1990) such as connaître/connaitreknow, paraître/paraitreappear, naître/naitrebe born and their variations such as reconnaître/reconnaitrerecognise, disparaître/disparaitredisappear, renaître/renaitrebe reborn are conjugated as follows:
    Example:
    connaîtreknow – je connais, tu connais, il/elle/on connaît, nous connaissons, vous connaissez, ils/elles connaissent
  • Many verbs that end in -ire (boiredrink, croirebelieve, diresay, écrirewrite, fairedo/make, lireread, plaireplease, rirelaugh ...) are irregular and change their stem in the plural forms. There is no general rule to learn the conjugations of these verbs, it’s best to learn them by heart.

    Examples:
    boiredrink - je bois, tu bois, il/elle/on boit, nous buvons, vous buvez, ils/elles boivent
    croirebelieve - je crois, tu crois, il/elle/on croit, nous croyons, vous croyez, ils/elles croient
    écrirewrite - j’écris, tu écris, il/elle/on écrit, nous écrivons, vous écrivez, ils/elles écrivent
    lireread - je lis, tu lis, il/elle/on lit, nous lisons, vous lisez, ils/elles lisent

Verbs that end in -dre and -tre

Person Ending vendre mettre
1st person singular (I) -s je vends je mets
2nd person singular (you) -s tu vends tu mets
3rd person singular (he/she/it) il/elle/on vend il/elle/on met
1st person plural (we) -ons nous vendons nous mettons
2nd person plural (you) -ez vous vendez vous mettez
3rd person plural (they) -ent ils/elles vendent ils/elles mettent

Exceptions

  • The verb prendretake and its related forms apprendrelearn, comprendreunderstand, surprendresurprise, etc. lose the d in their plural forms.
    In addition, the n is doubled in the ils/elles form.

    Example:
    prendretake – je prends, tu prends, il/elle/on prend, nous prenons, vous prenez, ils/elles prennent.
  • Verbs that end in -indre (atteindrewait, craindrefear, éteindreturn off, joindrecombine, peindrepaint, plaindrepity, teindredye ...) lose the d in the singular and plural forms.
    In addition, we transform the n to gn in the plural forms.

    Example:
    peindrepaint – je peins, tu peins, il/elle/on peint, nous peignons, vous peignez, ils/elles peignent

-oir Verbs

Verbs that end in -oir such as recevoirreceive, apercevoirglimpse, concevoirdesign, décevoirdisappoint, devoirmust, percevoirperceive are conjugated as follows:

Person Ending recevoir
1st person singular (I) -s je reçois
2nd person singular (you) -s tu reçois
3rd person singular (he/she/it) -t il/elle/on reçoit
1st person plural (we) -ons nous recevons
2nd person plural (you) -ez vous recevez
3rd person plural (they) -ent ils/elles reçoivent

Note: the verbs avoirhave, devoirmust, mouvoirmove, pouvoirbe able to, savoirknow, voirsee und vouloirwant are irregular and are not conjugated in the same way as recevoir. Check out their conjugations on our page on irregular verbs in French and practise in the exercises.

Important Irregular Verbs: avoir, être, aller and faire

Person avoir être aller faire
1st person singular (I) j’ai je suis je vais je fais
2nd person singular (you) tu as tu es tu vas tu fais
3rd person singular (he/she/it) il/elle/on a il/elle/on est il/elle/on va il/elle/on fait
1st person plural (we) nous avons nous sommes nous allons nous faisons
2nd person plural (you) vous avez vous êtes vous allez vous faites
3rd person plural (they) ils/elles ont ils/elles sont ils/elles vont ils/elles font

Le présent continu: the present progressive in French

The présent continu, also known as the présent progressif or the présent duratif, is the French equivalent of the present progressive in English (I am doing, he is going, etc.). Like its English counterpart, it demonstrates that an action or event is in progress at the moment of speaking.

The présent continu is formed as follows:

present tense conjugation of être + en train de + infinitive

Examples:
Nous sommes en train de dîner.We’re having dinner.
Les joueurs sont en train de perdre le match.The players are losing the match.
Je suis en train de repeindre ma chambre.I’m repainting my room.