Irregular Future Verbs in French

Instructor: Soyini Ashby

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

It's in human nature to look ahead. In this lesson, we give you the resources to talk about your tomorrows, particularly using those pesky irregular verbs.


2050: A French Odyssey

What will life be like tomorrow? Will I still be able to get my favorite, brewed-from-scratch mocha latte, or will Starbucks just be a bank of replicators à la Star Trek? How would such a discussion sound in French? Well aside from the word 'Starbucks' possibly sounding more like 'Starbewks,' you'll find the French have a slightly simpler way of talking about the future than in English. As if to drive home the point, the French tense that is used to talk about future actions and events is even called the futur simple (the simple future). Well, it's mostly simple. There are a few irregularities.

It's simpler than English, though, because English uses 'will + verb' (as in: I will only buy my coffee from a real person, not a robot) to speak of future actions. In French, there is no 'will,' just the verb, which changes to a particular form so that you can know that it is referring to the future.

Like all other tenses in French, the verb has a stem and an ending. For the most part, the stem in the future simple is simply the infinitive (the unconjugated form of the verb, which is what you find when you look it up in the dictionary). So a statement about the future might sound something like this:

J'achèterai du café fraichement moulu. (I will buy freshly ground coffee).

So, here, the formula for the futur simple is: stem (infinitive) + ending. For a quick summary of the endings that go with each person, take a look at this image:


Those are the regular verbs. Of course, there are irregular verbs, for which the stem is something other than the infinitive.

Irregular future simple stems

The major verbs that are irregular in the simple future are the same ones that are irregular in most other tenses. The usual suspects are: avoir, être, aller and faire. Instead of using the infinitive as the stem, you'll have to use the following stems:

Verb Stem Pronunciation Conjugation Translation
avoir aur- (oar) j'aurai
tu auras
il/elle aura
nous aurons
vous aurez
ils/elles auront
I will have
you will have
he/she/it will have
we will have
you will have
they will have
être ser- (sir) je serai
tu seras
il/elle sera
nous serons
vous serez
ils/elles seront
I will be
you will be
he/she/it will be
we will be
you will be
they will be
aller ir- (eer) j'irai
tu iras
I will go
you will go
faire fer- (fuhr) je ferai
tu feras
I will do
you will do

So that picture of the flower that we drew earlier to help you remember the formation of the future tense would look slightly different for a verb like avoir. Where we had the infinitive in the original diagram, we would replace it with the special future tense stem for avoir. So we get:


The other irregular future tense stems are easier to remember if you study them in groups of similar verbs. Of course, is going to make that easy for you, so we've done the grouping below.

Verbs like venir (ending in -enir)

Verbs like venir (to come) have future tense stems that contain the letters -iendr-, as you will see below:

Verb Stem Pronunciation Conjugation Translation
venir viendr- (vee-yahn-dr) je viendrai
tu viendras
I will come
you will come
tenir tiendr- (tee-yahn-dr) je tiendrai
tu tiendras
I will hold
you will hold
obtenir obtiendr- (ob-tee-yahn-dr) j'obtiendrai
tu obtiendras
I will obtain
you will obtain

Verbs ending in -oir with a single 'r' in the stem

-OIR verbs are weird in just about any tense. But at least they are slightly consistent among themselves - though only just. The following verbs have stems formed by dropping the -oir and adding an 'r' (with occasional modifications to one or two other letters):

Verb Stem Pronunciation Conjugation Translation
vouloir voudr- (voodr) je voudrai, etc. I will want, etc.
devoir devr- (duhvr) je devrai, etc. I will have to, etc.
savoir saur- (soar) je saurai, etc. I will know, etc.
recevoir recevr- (ruh-suhvr) je recevrai, etc. I will receive, etc.
pleuvoir pleuvr- (pluhvr) il pleuvra It will rain
falloir faudr- (fohdr) il faudra It will be necessary

Note that the last two verbs are only used with the pronoun il. After all, you can't say 'I will rain.' No matter what technology changes they have in the future, we're not going to start falling from the sky in droplets.

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