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Courir in French: Definition & Conjugation

Instructor: Soyini Ashby

Soyini has taught French at the high school and university levels, and is a PhD student in Geography.

In this lesson, we will learn how to conjugate the French verb ''courir'' in the present tense, as well as how to apply it literally and metaphorically in sentences.

The Thrill of the Chase

marathon_runner

Courir in French: Definition

Ever chased a dream? Ever run after something with all your might? Well, this French verb's for you: courir (pronounced 'coo-reer'). In its simplest sense, courir means 'to run.' And as we'll see, this idea of running can be extended to a number of associated ideas, mostly having to do with rushing and chasing after or pursuing something.

Conjugation

Courir belongs to what we call the 'third group' of French verbs, which is basically a group of irregular verbs. It is technically an '-ir' verb, but it is not conjugated with the same endings as regular '-ir' verbs. Nevertheless, there's no need to worry: it does follow a pattern. The stem of all forms of the verb courir in the present tense is 'cour-' (pronounced 'coor' like the American beer), as you can see in the table below:

Subject pronoun Verb conjugation Pronunciation Translation
je je cours (zhuh coor) I run, I am running
tu tu cours (tew coor) You run, You are running (addressing one person who is familiar to you)
il/elle/on il court
elle court
on court
(eel coor)
(ell coor)
(oh coor)
He/it runs, he/it is running
She/it runs, she/it is running
We run, we are running
nous nous courons (noo coo-roh) We run, we are running
vous vous courez (voo coo-ray) You run, you are running (addressing multiple people or one person to whom you must show respect)
ils/elles ils courent
elles courent
(eel coor)
(ell coor)
They run, they are running (male and mixed groups)
They run, they are running (group of females only)

runner_female

So when you're getting ready for that marathon, and you line up at the start and your friend can't believe it's you, he/she might say:

Tu cours? (You're running?)

To this impertinent question, you may reply, without a hint of sarcasm (not that we're encouraging you to show off):

Oui, je cours. Je cours très vite. (Yes, I am running. I run very fast.)

It is important to note that the present tense form of the verb in French can be translated as both the present tense and the present continuous tense in English. 'I run' and 'I am running' are both simply je cours.

Applications of Courir

rabbit_running

Courir refers to the physical act of running, in a race or otherwise. Thus, it is often used in expressions that would contain the word 'run' in English, such as:

Courir les risques (to run the risk)

Of course, the point of running is to move faster than usual, so courir can be used by extension, to talk about rushing, such as in the phrase:

Ça ne sert à rien de courir. (There's no point in rushing.)

If you're like most of us, when you run a race, you're typically running behind someone else. In appropriate fashion, courir is also used in expressions that talk about pursuit. Courir après literally means 'to run after,' so one might say:

Il court après le bus. (He's chasing the bus.)

Les ambitieux courent après le succès. (The ambitious chase success.)

Instead of success, some have other ambitions such as:

Courir les filles (to chase girls)

We hope that vous ne courez pas les filles (you're not chasing girls)!

Along the same lines, here's a handy idiomatic expression about pursuit:

Courir deux lièvres à la fois (to do two things at once/pursue two activities at once)

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