Emprunter: Definition & Conjugation

Instructor: Susan Binkley

Susan has taught college-level French and has a PhD in French studies.

The French verb 'emprunter' means 'to borrow' in English. In this lesson, we will learn how to use this verb in a conversation. We will also view the conjugation and learn some sentences with the verb.

Using the Verb Emprunter

You have made it back to Paris to continue your study abroad program after a week of vacation over winter break. . . but your luggage didn't make it! The airlines have lost your luggage, so you'll need to borrow a few things for the next few days.

Tu empruntes (pronounced: too ahm prunt) des vêtements?, your friend Caroline asks you. ('Are you borrowing clothes?')

Oui, j'emprunte (pronounced: zhahm prunt) des vêtements, you reply. ('Yes, I'm borrowing clothes.')

You then add that you're borrowing a sweater from Diane: J'emprunte un pull-over à Diane.

Caroline says that Diane's luggage was lost, too! So Diane has to borrow a sweater from Laura. Elle emprunte un pull-over à Laura.

Luc and Victor's luggage was lost, too, so you ask them if they are borrowing clothes: Vous empruntez (pronounced: voo zahm prun tay) des vêtements aussi?

Non, Luc answers. Then he explains that he made the mistake of putting his bank cards in his checked bag. J'emprunte de l'argent à Victor! ('I'm borrowing money from Victor!')

Emprunter = To borrow
emprunter

Did you notice the forms of emprunter (pronounced: ahm pruhn tay) in the sentences above? Emprunter is the basic form of the verb that means 'to borrow.' This basic form is called 'the infinitive.' When we use it with a pronoun such as il to say 'he is borrowing,' we use the appropriate conjugation, il emprunte, in this case.

Forms of Emprunter

Let's take a look at emprunter in the present tense for all the forms. Here's the conjugation chart:

Subject Pronoun Emprunter Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
je j'emprunte (zhahm pruhnt) I borrow, I am borrowing
tu tu empruntes (too ahm pruhnt) you borrow, you are borrowing
il/elle/on il/elle/on emprunte (eel/el/ohn ahm pruhnt) he/she borrows, he/she is borrowing
nous nous empruntons (noo zahm pruhn tohn) we borrow, we are borrowing
vous vous empruntez (voo zahm pruhn tay) you borrow, you are borrowing
ils/elles ils/elles empruntent (eel/el zahm pruhnt) they borrow, they are borrowing

The verb emprunter is what we call a 'regular' -er verb because its conjugation follows the same pattern as the other verbs ending in -er, such as danser or parler.

When you say that you are borrowing something from someone, you need to use the preposition à after the verb and before the name of the person. This expresses the idea of borrowing 'from' someone. This is important to remember, because it isn't exactly how we say it in English. Normally, the preposition de expresses the idea of 'from,' but not with emprunter. With emprunter, à needs to be used.

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