Verb groups - French

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Conjugate

Verb groups and verb morphology in French

Stems and endings

Verbs are traditionally classified into three groups according to the ending of their infinitive.

The verbs être and avoir are verbs that have many peculiarities in their conjugation: they do not belong to any group.

1. The 1st group

It consists of verbs ending in -er (except for aller).
These verbs have a regular conjugation, and most of them follow the pattern of the verb marcher, except for a few verbs that have a particular conjugation:

- Verbs ending in -ayer (e.g. payer). These verbs follow at the same time the conjugation pattern of marcher (il paye) and the pattern of balayer (il paie)
- Verbs ending in -ger (e.g. manger) keep the vowel e after g if they are followed by the vowels a and o : il mangeait, nous mangeons.
- Verbs ending in -cer (e.g. commencer) are subject to a variation of the consonant c in ç in front of the vowels a and o : il commençait, nous commençons.
- Verbs ending in -eler follow the pattern of appeler, and in this case the consonant l is duplicated (il appelle), or the pattern peler and are subject to accent variation in some forms (il pèle).
To learn more about the conjugation of these verbs, please refer to the table of models.
Examples : marcher, chanter, aimer, envoyer, payer, balayer, manger, ranger, commencer, tracer, appeler, peler.

2. The 2nd group

It consists of verbs ending in -ir and forming their present participle in –issant.
These verbs have a regular conjugation, and follow the pattern of the verb finir.
Examples : finir, choisir, impartir, bénir, s'agir, rassir.
Maudire is part of the 2nd group despite its ending in « -ire ».

3. The 3rd group

This group includes all the verbs that cannot be classified in the first or second group. It includes verbs with irregular conjugations that end, for the most part, in -re and -oir.
These verbs are characterized by variable stems (sai-, sav-, sach-, saur- are the stems used in the conjugation of savoir)
Verbs ending in -ir with present participle ending in -ant belong to the 3rd group.
The verb aller also belongs to this group.
Examples : aller, faire, prendre, dire, croire, naître, vendre, voir, pouvoir, vouloir, devoir, courir, partir, mentir.

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Each simple form consists of a stem to which an ending is added.

1. Stem

The stem is the part that carries the meaning of the verb.
The majority of verbs have only one stem, this is the case of the regular verbs of the 1st and 2nd group.

chant- is the stem of chanter,
fini- is the stem of finir.
Some verbs have several very different stems in various conjugated forms.
va-, ir- and -all are the stems of the verb aller,
sai-, sav-, sach-, saur- are the stems of the verb savoir.
For the verbs of the 1st and 2nd group, the stem alterations quite regular. Only a few verbs in the 3rd group change their stems without following any specific rules, which could make their conjugation tricky.

2. Ending

The ending is the part of the verb that, added to the stem, bears the marks of mode, tense, number and person.

-ait is the ending which serves to mark the third person singular of the indicative imperfect or the conditional present (il aimait, il aimerait).
In contrast to the stems, the endings show few irregularities. They vary according to the group in the indicative present tense and imperative mood, but are the same for all verbs in all groups in the conditional or the subjunctive mood, for example.
There are verbs that have no form in certain tenses or persons. The verb clore for example, doesn't have the past simple nor the imperfect indicative form.

To learn more about French verbs visit the French Grammar online website.

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