How To Conjugate -Er, -Ir And -Re Verbs In French

We’ll use three main examples, but these conjugations cover hundreds of regular verbs.
Conjugating -er, -ir and -re verbs in French represented by a Parisian celebration of Bastille day on a large concourse.

One of the most exciting parts of your language journey is the very beginning, when it feels like the world is open to you. You spend time imagining yourself sitting on the French Riviera, and confidently ordering a croissant at a bakery. Then, that vision becomes cloudy as you come to think about your more immediate future: learning grammar rules. Don’t let that ruin your fun! Learning to conjugate in French isn’t as hard as you might think, especially because there are some predictable rules that will help you with conquer hundreds of verbs easily.

Mastering the conjugation of refular -ir, -er, and -re verbs in various tenses is essential for fluency in the French language. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of conjugating these verb types in the present, past (passe compose), future, and imperfect tenses. There are irregular verbs you’ll also need to memorize — aller, avoir, être, etc. — but working on these rules is a great first step.

Infographic showing the present tense French verb conjugations.

Conjugating -Ir Verbs

Starting with -ir, we’ll walk you through the conjugations using the verb finir (“to finish”), but other verbs including nourrir (“to feed”), choisir (“to choose”) and agir (“to act”) follow the same pattern.

Present Tense

je finis (“I finish”) nous finissons (“we finish”)
tu finis (“you finish”) vous finissez (“you finish”)
il/elle/on finit (“he/she/one finishes”) ils/elles finissent (“they finish”)

Past Tense

The past tense works a bit differently than the present tense in French. Here, all of the -ir endings are replaced with the same thing: -i. To distinguish between them, the verb avoir is conjugated (into the present tense).

j’ai fini (“I finished”) nous avons fini (“we finished”)
tu as fini (“you finished”) vous avez fini (“you finished”)
il/elle/on a fini (“he/she/one finished”) ils/elles ont fini (“they finished”)

Future Tense

je finirai (“I will finish”) nous finirons (“we will finish”)
tu finiras (“you will finish”) vous finirez (“you will finish”)
il/elle/on finira (“he/she/one will finish”) ils/elles finiront (“they will finish”)

Imperfect Tense

L’imparfait in French is used to refer to actions that were repeated or ongoing in the past.

je finissais (“I used to finish”) nous finissions (“we used to finish”)
tu finissais (“you used to finish”) vous finissiez (“you used to finish”)
il/elle/on finissait (“he/she/one used to finish”) ils/elles finissaient (“they used to finish”)

Conjugating -ER Verbs

Next up we have -er verbs, using parler (“to speak”) as our main example. Other common -er verbs include chercher (“to search”), étudier (“to study”) and apporter (“to bring”).

Present Tense

je parle (“I speak”) nous parlons (“we speak”)
tu parles (“you speak”) vous parlez (“you speak”)
il/elle/on parle (“he/she/one speaks”) ils/elles parlent (“they speak”)

Past Tense

Just like with the -ir verbs, here the same ending is added, with -er replaced by . You’ll need to add and conjugate avoir in a way that reflects the subject of the sentence.

j’ai parlé (“I spoke”) nous avons parlé (“we spoke”)
tu as parlé (“you spoke”) vous avez parlé (“you spoke”)
il/elle/on a parlé (“he/she/one spoke”) ils/elles ont parlé (“they spoke”)

Future Tense

je parlerai (“I will speak”) nous parlerons (“we will speak”)
tu parleras (“you will speak”) vous parlerez (“you will speak”)
il/elle/on parlera (“he/she/one will speak”) ils/elles parleront (“they will speak”)

Imperfect Tense

je parlais (“I used to speak”) nous parlions (“we used to speak”)
tu parlais (“you used to speak”) vous parliez (“you used to speak”)
il/elle/on parlait (“he/she/one used to speak”) ils/elles parlaient (“they used to speak”)

Conjugating -Re Verbs

Lastly comes the -re verbs. We’ll use vendre (“to sell”) as our example here, but it applies to all regular -re verbs including attendre (“to wait”), perdre (“to lose”) and entendre (“to hear”).

Present Tense

One thing to note here is that the third person singular form of -er verbs has no ending at all, and so it’s just the stem alone (in this case, vend).

je vends (“I sell”) nous vendons (“we sell”)
tu vends (“you sell”) vous vendez (“you sell”)
il/elle/on vend (“he/she/one sells”) ils/elles vendent (“they sell”)

Past Tense

Once again we’ll mention the past tense ending on the main verb is the same for every conjugation — -re becomes -u — but you’ll need to add and conjugate (in the present tense!) the irregular auxiliary verb avoir.

j’ai vendu (“I sold”) nous avons vendu (“we sold”)
tu as vendu (“you sold”) vous avez vendu (“you sold”)
il/elle/on a vendu (“he/she/one sold”) ils/elles ont vendu (“they sold”)

Future Tense

je vendrai (“I will sell”) nous vendrons (“we will sell”)
tu vendras (“you will sell”) vous vendrez (“you will sell”)
il/elle/on vendra (“he/she/one will sell”) ils/elles vendront (“they will sell”)

Imperfect Tense

je vendais (“I used to sell”) nous vendions (“we used to sell”)
tu vendais (“you used to sell”) vous vendiez (“you used to sell”)
il/elle/on vendait (“he/she/one used to sell”) ils/elles vendaient (“they used to sell”)

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of how to conjugate -ir, -er and -re verbs in multiple tenses, it’s time to put your knowledge into action. Practicing regularly across various tenses will help you gain confidence and fluency in conjugating French verbs in any context.

Keep learning and practicing, and soon you’ll be conjugating French verbs effortlessly in any tense. Bonne chance ! (Good luck!)

Learn French today.
Try Babbel