The three French verb groups and the present tense

Think of all the things you can possibly do in one day, that’s also a lot of verbs to conjugate ! To simplify things, French has classified regular verbs into three groups, based on the ending of their infinitives : -er (manger to eat), -ir (finir to finish), -re (attendre to wait). Each verb groups follows a pattern of conjugation for every tense. In this lesson you will learn how to recognize the verb groups using infinitives, and  their pattern of conjugation in the present tense.


The “first group” : -er verbs

More than 80 percent of French verbs are -er verbs. It’s great for you, because after you know their pattern of conjugation in the present tense, you can pretty much conjugate 80 percent of French verbs !

To conjugate a regular -er verb, drop the -er of the infinitive to get the stem ( le radical in French). Then add the six present tense endings specific to -er verbs : -e, -es, -e, -ons, -ez, -ent. That’s it… easy !

Aimer (to like)


tu aimes

il/elle/on aime

nous aimons

vous aimez

ils/elles aiment

Chanter (to sing)

je chante

tu chantes

il/elle/on chante

nous chantons

vous chantez

ils/elles chantent

Jouer (to play)

je joue

tu joues

il/elle/on joue

nous jouons

vous jouez

ils/elles jouent


Warning : Aller (to go) is a very common verb, and it looks like a regular -er verb, but it is not, aller is actually a irregular verb and belongs to the third group (see below).


The “second group” : -ir verbs

The -ir verb group is the second most common verb type. To form the present tense of a regular -ir verb, drop the -ir of the infinitive to get the stem for the present tense conjugation. Then add the present tense endings specific to -ir verbs: -is, -is, -it, -issons, -issez, -issent.

Finir (to finish)

je finis

tu finis

il/elle/on finit

nous finissons

vous finissez

ils/elles finissent

Grandir (to grow)

je grandis

tu grandis

il/elle/on grandit

nous grandissons

vous grandissez

ils/elles grandissent

Réussir (to succeed)

je réussis

tu réussis

il/elle/on réussit

nous réussissons

vous réussissez

ils/elles réussissent

Most of -ir verbs follow this pattern of conjugation but be careful, some -ir verbs actually belong to the third group and follow an other pattern. To make sure that an ir verb belongs to the second group you have to look to its present participle, if it ends with -issant this verb belongs to the second group and follows the pattern you just learned, otherwise it’s a third group verb…

examples of present participles :

finissant (finishing) ; grandissant (growing); réussissant (succeeding) ; choisissant (choosing)

The “third group” : the irregular verbs

Here are all the verbs that don’t belong to the first or second groups because they are actually irregular. This third group can be divided into four  sub-categories : irregular verbs in -ir, verbs in -oir, verbs in -re, and the verb aller (to go).

Unfortunately there are no general pattern here so you will have to learn those verbs one by one… However some -dre verbs like attendre (to wait) or vendre (to sell) do follow a certain pattern : for those verbs drop the -dre then add the six endings -ds, -ds, -d, -dons, -dez, -dent. But be careful because some -dre verbs like prendre (to take) or éteindre (to switch off) don’t follow this pattern…

Here are some third group verbs conjugations :

Ouvrir (to open)


tu ouvres

il/elle/on ouvre

nous ouvrons

vous ouvrez

ils/elles ouvrent

Mourir (to die)

je meurs

tu meurs

il/elle/on meurt

nous mourons

vous mourez

ils/elles meurent

Voir (to see)

je vois

tu vois

il/elle/on voit

nous voyons

vous voyez

ils/elles voient

Savoir (to know)

je sais

tu sais

il/elle/on sait

nous savons

vous savez

ils/elles savent

Attendre (to wait)


tu attends

il/elle/on attend

nous attendons

vous attendez

ils/elles attendent

Vendre (to sell)

je vends

tu vends

il/elle/on vend

nous vendons

vous vendez

ils/elles vendent

Prendre (to take)

je prends

tu prends

il/elle/on prend

nous prenons

vous prenez

ils/elles prennent

Éteindre (to switch off)


tu éteins

il/elle/on éteint

nous éteignons

vous éteignez

ils/elles éteignent

Aller (to go)

je vais

tu vas

il/elle/on va

nous allons

vous allez

ils/elles vont