French Subject-Verb Agreement

Instructor: Jennifer Chrol

I have a Master's degree in English and French. I love teaching language at all ages and levels.

'Me Tarzan! You Jane!' Is this how you feel when trying to have a conversation in French? Not for long; in this lesson you'll learn subject-verb agreement for the three main French verb forms: ''-er'', ''-ir/-re'', and irregular so that you'll recognize and conjugate the correct verb form with the correct subject pronoun.

The Foundations of Language

The foundations of any language are usually the same. To speak, you need nouns and verbs. Some languages have articles and some don't, but nouns and verbs are important for any communication. In English we know to say, 'I need,' 'you need,' 'he needs,' for example. Here, the subject (I, you, he) agrees with the verb (need, needs). Having incorrect subject-verb (S-V) agreement can sometimes hinder your ability to express yourself. Learning the correct subject-verb agreement from the beginning will ensure that you're practicing correctly and it will make communication much easier!

Regular Verb Endings

Subject Pronoun Verb -er ending Verb -ir ending Verb -re ending
je e s s
tu es s s
il/elle e t -
nous ons ons ons
vous ez ez ez
ils/elles ent ent ent

Irregular verbs aren't represented here because they are, well, irregular and don't follow a pattern.

Conjugating Regular Verbs

Ok, now we have the endings for regular verbs

The chart shows examples for the -er verb aimer (to like/love), the -ir verb finir (to finish), and the -re verb vendre (to sell). The endings for the regular verbs are in bold print.

  • Note that the subject pronoun je becomes j' before verbs beginning with a vowel, such as aimer. J'aime le café. I like coffee. *Also, in -ir verbs, you use a double consonant ss in the nous, vous, and ils/elles creating an 's' sound.

Pronoun Verb -er S-V Pronunciation Verb -ir S-V Pronunciation Verb -re S-V Pronunciation
je aime zhaym finis zhu fin-ee vends zhu vahnd
tu aimes too aym finis too fin-ee vends too vahnd
il/elle aime eel/el aym finit eel/el fin-ee vend eel/el vahnd
nous aimons noo zaym-on finissons noo fin-ee-son vendons noo vahnd-on
vous aimez voo zaym-ay finissez voo fin-ee-say vendez voo vahnd-ay
ils/elles aiment eel/el zaym finissent eel/el fin-ees vendent eel/el vahnd

Translation: You like coffee? Yes, I like coffee.
aimer

With -er, -ir, and -re verbs, the endings stay the same no matter which verb you are conjugating. So, learning the endings will help you to choose the correct S-V agreement.

Some common -er verbs:

  • regarder - to watch
  • parler - to speak

Some common -ir verb:

  • choisir - to choose
  • réfléchir - to think, reflect

Some common -re verbs :

  • perdre - to lose
  • répondre - to respond

Conjugating Irregular Verbs

Possibly the four most important verbs in the French language are irregular. These irregular verbs are être (to be), avoir (to have), aller (to go), and faire (to do). There's no rhyme or reason to them and there are no tricks to help you remember them, but once you memorize them, you'll be able to say quite a bit in French!

Pronoun Verb être S-V Pronunciation Verb avoir S-V Pronunciation Verb aller S-V Pronunciation
je suis zhu swee ai zhay vais zhu vay
tu es too ay as too ah vas too vah
il/elle est eel/el ay a eel/el ah va eel/el vah
nous sommes noo som avons noo zah-von allons noo zah-lon
vous êtes voo zeht avez voo zah-vay allez voo zah-lay
ils/elles sont eel/el son ont eel/el zon vont eel/el von

Verb faire S-V Pronunciation
fais zhu fay
fais too fay
fait eel/el fay
faisons noo fay-zon
faites voo fayt
font eel/el fon

Translation: I am a student.
etudiant

Other common irregular verbs are pouvoir (to be able), vouloir (to want), dire (to say), and connaître (to be familiar with).

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