French verb - conjugation rules

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French verb, conjugation rules in French

Pronominal verbs
1. What is the verb?
The verb is one of the grammatical classes. It is the core of the sentence.

In a sentence, the verb is the word that affirms the existence of a subject (a person or thing) and which expresses the state of that subject (how he/she feels) or his action (what he/she does).
Elle deviendra infirmière.
Je pars demain.
The verb is changing in:

number

il sert

ils servent

person

je sers

il sert

mode

je sers

je servirais

tense

je sers

je servais

voice

il sert

il est servi
2. Verbal expression
There are fixed expressions that can be substituted for a simple verb and behave in the same way in a sentence.
Avoir l'air, se rendre compte, faire semblant, prendre froid, savoir gré, rendre visite…
For example, the verbal expression «prendre froid » can be conjugated : j'ai pris froid ; ils prendront froid, and so on.
3. Verbal forms
A verb can be conjugated in the following forms:
- pronominal (reflexive) : je me promène
- negative : il ne mangera pas
- interrogative : irons-nous ?
A verb can also be conjugated with adverbial pronouns:
- « en » : je m’en vais, il en a pris
- « y » : il y va, je m'y verrais bien
4. Verb agreement
The verb agrees in number and in person with its subject.
Elle travaillait à Paris.
Arnaud et Sylvie ont acheté une maison en Charente.
Qui es-tu?
The past participle of verbs conjugated with the auxiliary avoir does not agree with the subject: it is invariable if no direct object complement precedes it.
Les enfants ont joué toute l'après-midi.
Ils auraient réussi s'ils avaient suivi nos conseils.
The participle agrees in gender and number with the preceding direct object complement.
Ils ont suivi les conseils qu'elle leur avait donnés.
J'ai fait quelques propositions que la direction a acceptées.
The past participle of a verb conjugated with the auxiliary être agrees in gender and number with its subject.
Les invités sont partis dans l'après-midi.
Les poires seront vendues à prix coûtant.
To learn more about verb agreement refer to the rules of agreement.
5. Spelling reform
The 1990 spelling reform allowed for tolerances on words containing circumflexic accents, especially verbs
accroître / accroitre, paraître / paraitre, connaître / connaitre
goûter / gouter, coûter / couter, voûter / vouter
The conjugator recognizes the verbs in the new spelling. It directly displays the conjugation of the traditional form of the verb.
E.g. if the entered verb is naitre, the conjugation of the verb naître is displayed.
Below is a list of the verbs in question:
accroitre dégouter rafraichir
affuter dimer recomparaitre
aouter écrouter recroitre
apparaitre enchainer remboiter
bruler enfaiter renaitre
bucher enfuter renchainer
cloitrer entrainer renfaiter
comparaitre fluter reparaitre
connaitre fraichir repaitre
couter gouter réapparaitre
croitre giter souler
crouter maitriser trainailler
disparaitre méconnaitre trainasser
déboiter naitre trainer
décroitre paraitre vouter
décrouter paitre
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1. What is the pronominal verb form?
A verb that is constructed with a complementary pronoun of the same person as the subject, called a reflexive pronoun, is called a pronominal (or reflexive) verb.
Je m'habitue à cette nouvelle organisation.
Nous nous rencontrerons la semaine prochaine.
Cette tournure s'emploie au sens figuré.
Vous vous abstiendrez de tout commentaire.
T'es-tu rapidement aperçu de ton erreur ?
The reflexive pronoun indicates that the subject is undergoing the action.
2. Essentially pronominal French verbs
Essentially pronominal verbs are verbs that exist only in the pronominal form, i.e. that are necessarily preceded by a reflexive pronoun
e.g. the verbs abstenir, agenouiller, blottir never occur without a pronoun
or verbs that change their meaning in the pronominal form
e.g. s’apercevoir has a different meaning from apercevoir, and s’appeler has a different meaning from appeler
3. Occasionally pronominal verbs
These are verbs that can exist in both pronominal and non-pronominal forms while keeping similar meaning.
e.g. demander / se demander, laver / se laver
4. Agreement of pronominal verbs in compound tenses
Although they are conjugated with the auxiliary être, the past participles of the pronominal verbs do not systematically agree with their subject. They follow different rules :
- The past participle of essentially pronominal verbs systematically agrees with the subject of the verb.
Nous nous sommes abstenus de tout commentaire.
Elle s’est aperçue de son erreur.
- The past participle of occasionally pronominal verbs agrees with the direct object complement of the verb if it is placed before: the verb agrees as if it were conjugated with the auxiliary avoir.
Nous nous sommes retrouvés
Elles se sont lavé les mains
Ils se sont téléphoné
- When the pronoun has no function of its own and is used to express the passive voice, the past participle always agrees with the subject of the verb.
Les mots se sont écrits sans accent jusqu'au XVIe siècle (= ont été écrits).
Below is a non-exhaustive list of pronominal verbs that can't have a direct object complement and therefore never agree :
complaire convenir déplaire
dire donner mentir
nuire offrir parler
permettre plaire promettre
ressembler rire sourire
succéder suffire survivre
téléphoner acheter appartenir
écrire s'entre-nuire

To learn more about French verbs, visit the French Grammar Online website.

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