Ouvrir in French: Translation & Conjugation

Instructor: Susan Binkley

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

Let's take a look at the verb 'ouvrir,' which means 'to open' in English. We'll see a common situation where you might hear it, view the conjugation, and learn a few sentences using the verb.

Using the Verb Ouvrir

What a hot summer! You're traveling in France for the summer, but like so many hotels in France, your hotel doesn't have air conditioning. You need fresh air! You tell your friend Vivienne that you're opening a window:

'J'ouvre' (pronounced: zhoovruh) 'la fenêtre,' you say.

'Tu ouvres' (pronounced: too oovruh) 'la fenêtre?' she responds. 'Bien!' (You're opening the window? Good!)

Your friends Carole and Anne come over to your room and tell you that they're also opening the window to try to cool off:

'Nous ouvrons' (pronounced: noo zoovrohn) 'la fenêtre aussi,' they tell you (We're opening the window, too).

The French word ouvrir means to open.
ouvrir

Did you notice the forms of ouvrir (pronounced: oo vreer) that were used in the conversation? Ouvrir is the infinitive form, or basic form, of the verb 'to open.' But when we use it with a pronoun such as je to say 'I open' or 'I am opening,' we use the conjugated form: j'ouvre.

Forms of Ouvrir

Now, let's view the verb conjugation in the present tense for all the forms. Here's the conjugation chart for ouvrir:

Subject Pronoun Ouvrir Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
je j'ouvre (zhoovruh) I open, I am opening
tu tu ouvres (too oovruh) you open, you are opening
il/elle/on il/elle/on ouvre (eel/el/ohn oovruh) he/she opens, he/she is opening
nous nous ouvrons (noo zoovrohn) we open, we are opening
vous vous ouvrez (voo zoovray) you open, you are opening
ils/elles ils/elles ouvrent (eel/el oovruh) they open, they are opening

Even though this verb ends in -ir, the endings for the conjugation are actually the same as -er verbs in the present tense. For example, verbs like parler, which you may have seen before, end in -es for the tu form: tu parles. For ouvrir, the tu form also ends in -es: tu ouvres.

Since ouvrir begins with a vowel, je drops the e and it is replaced with an apostrophe. So it looks like this: j'ouvre.

More Examples of Ouvrir

Let's get back to that hot hotel room and look at some more examples of ouvrir. Anne decides that maybe she should go back to her room and open the door, as well.

'Elle ouvre la porte,' Carole explains after Anne steps out. (She is opening the door.)

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