commonly used french verbs

French Starter Fuel: 10 Commonly Used French Verbs to Launch You into the Language

Learning French from scratch can be an exhilarating experience.

Exhilarating, but also daunting.

It can be both exciting and terrifying to master your ABCs in a totally different language and to practice the weird French u sound. 

As you advance and continue to immerse yourself, you’ll run into other surprises, like the intricacies of formal French versus the curveballs of informal French.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

While we’re on the topic of fun, basic French, we should cover perhaps the most important part of the language for beginners: verbs.

Not excited? Well, get excited!

Common verbs aren’t only awesome to know, but they’re super useful because they’re (you guessed it) super common in everyday conversation.
 


 
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Why Learn Common French Verbs?

According to the book “A Frequency Dictionary of French,” there are certain words that are used in French way more frequently than others. This dictionary contains adjectives and nouns and adverbs, but most importantly, it lists the most common verbs.

But why should you care? Verbs, shmerbs, right? Wrong. Verbs are an integral part of complete French sentences. Furthermore, because of the fact that these verbs are so common, they’ll be incredibly useful to a French learner who’s just starting out.

In fact, since these verbs are so commonly used, simply listening to real French speech is one of the best (and most fun) ways to learn them. FluentU is a great tool for this, since it provides authentic French videos—like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring speeches and more—that’ve been supercharged with learning tools. You’ll encounter tons of common verbs and never miss a word of the dialogue thanks to interactive subtitles, full transcripts and multimedia flashcards.

The list below includes verbs that follow regular verb formation rules (regular verbs) as well as irregular forms (irregular verbs). Learn how to conjugate the verbs on this list, and you’ll be primed and ready for all the challenges of verb tenses in French.

Action Pack: The 10 Most Commonly Used French Verbs, All in One Place

So, what are we waiting for? Check out the 10 most common verbs and start using them in your French!

1. Être (to be)

Behold: the undisputed most common verb in the French language. And are you surprised? Take note of how often you use the verb “to be” and its conjugations (am, are, is) in English, and you’ll see why être is so common in French. Furthermore, even though this verb means “to be” by itself, it can also be used as a support verb for compound verb tenses.

And even though être is irregular, once you have it memorized, it’s infinitely useful.

Check out these examples in the present tense:

  • Je suis un homme. (I am a man.)
  • Tu es une femme. (You are a woman.)
  • Il est professeur. (He is a professor.)
  • Elle est professeure. (She is a professor.)
  • Nous sommes étudiants. (We are students.)
  • Vous êtes professeurs. (You are professors.)
  • Ils sont étudiants. (They are students.)
  • Elles sont étudiantes. (They are students.)

2. Avoir (to have)

The second most common French verb, avoir (to have), is also irregular. As with être, this verb is used to make compound verb tenses. But for now, let’s not worry about that.

On to conjugation:

  • J‘ai un chat. (I have a cat.)
  • Tu as un chien. (You have a dog.)
  • Il/elle a un livre. (He/she has a book.)
  • Nous avons des stylos. (We have some pens.)
  • Vous avez des crayons. (You have some pencils.)
  • Ils/elles ont des livres. (They have some books.)

3. Aller (to go)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane! No, it’s another irregular verb. I’m beginning to see a trend among all these common verbs… In any case, aller is an extremely useful verb to know, and it means “to go.” Like être and avoiraller can be used in compound verbs, most notably in the future tense.

Check out these examples:

  • Je vais au magasin. (I’m going to the store.)
  • Tu vas à l’école. (You’re going to school.)
  • Il/elle va chez moi. (He/she is going to my place.)
  • Nous allons à l’université. (We’re going to the university.)
  • Vous allez à la discothèque. (You’re going to the dance club.)
  • Ils/elles vont à la banque. (They’re going to the bank.)

4. Pouvoir (to be able to)

While also an irregular verb, pouvoir carries the same meaning as “can” in English. It’s a very common verb, and it’s commonly used in the conditional form in order to make requests and ask for things in restaurants, at hotels and in stores.

Check out its conjugation:

  • Je peux parler français. (I can speak French.)
  • Tu peux parler anglais. (You can speak English.)
  • Il/elle peut lire. (He/she can read.)
  • Nous pouvons aller. (We can go.)
  • Vous pouvez demander. (You can ask.)
  • Ils/elles peuvent manger. (They can eat.)

5. Vouloir (to want)

In a lot of ways, the conjugation of vouloir is much like the conjugation of pouvoir. It means “to want” in English, and once again, this verb is used to make requests and ask for things when it’s conjugated into the conditional tense.

Check out this verb in action:

  • Je veux un livre. (I want a book.)
  • Tu veux un stylo. (You want a pen.)
  • Il/elle veut des crayons. (He/she wants some pencils.)
  • Nous voulons un chat. (We want a cat.)
  • Vous voulez un chien. (You want a dog.)
  • Ils/elles veulent un café. (They want a coffee.)

6. Faire (to do)

What we would do without the verb “to do”? Not much, I guess. Faire is the French verb meaning “to do” or “to make,” and like the others on this list, it’s common not only in vocabulary but also in its grammatical function. For example, it can be used in imperative or command phrases such as Faites vos devoirs ! (Do your homework!). And you guessed it, this verb is also irregular.

Check it out:

  • Je fais mes devoirs. (I’m doing my homework.)
  • Tu fais la lessive. (You’re doing the laundry.)
  • Il/elle fait un gâteau. (He/she makes a cake.)
  • Nous faisons des biscuits. (We’re making cookies.)
  • Vous faites une tasse de café. (You’re making a cup of coffee.)
  • Ils/elles font leur travail. (They’re doing their work.)

7. Parler (to speak)

At long last: a regular verb! The verb parler (to speak) is a regular verb and it follows the regular -er ending conjugation pattern, which involves dropping the -er ending and adding other endings. This verb is also very common in French, as it’s often used to ask the question Parlez-vous français (Do you speak French?). And because it’s regular, you can learn these endings and use them with other verbs that end in -er.

  • Je parle français. (I speak French.)
  • Tu parles anglais. (You speak English.)
  • Il/elle parle espagnol. (He/she speaks Spanish.)
  • Nous parlons hollandais. (We speak Dutch.)
  • Quelle langue parlez-vous ? (Which language do you speak?)
  • Ils/elles parlent allemand. (They speak German.)

8. Demander (to ask)

And what do we have here? Another regular verb! As with the verb parler, demander is a regular -er verb that means “to ask.” Don’t get confused, though: Even though demander can be used to mean “to ask,” the fixed expression poser une question means “to ask a question.” By the way, poser is also a regular -er verb. Lucky you!

Check out the conjugation for demander:

  • Je demande de l’aide. (I ask for help.)
  • Tu me demandes pourquoi. (You ask me why.)
  • Il/elle demandun stylo. (He/she asks for a pen.)
  • Nous demandons un café et un thé. (We ask for a coffee and a tea.)
  • Vous demandez que le professor explique le test. (You ask the professor to explain the test.)
  • Ils/elles demandent quelque chose à manger. (They ask for something to eat.)

9. Savoir (to know)

Ready for another situation where French and English translations don’t quite match? Well, look no further. Much in the same way there’s a distinction between demander (to ask) and poser (to ask [a question]), savoir (to know) has a friend also: connaître (to know). The distinction is complex, so for now, let’s just say that savoir means “to know something” like a fact or a skill.

In any case, savoir is irregular. Check it out:

  • Je sais parler français. (I know how to speak French.)
  • Tu sais que j’aime les langues. (You know that I like languages.)
  • Il/elle sait parler anglais. (She knows how to speak English.)
  • Nous savons tout. (We know everything.)
  • Que savez-vous ? (What do you know?)
  • Ils/elles savent(They know.)

10. Venir (to come)

Last but not least, we have the verb venir (to come), and where would this list be without the final verb being an irregular one?

Check out its conjugation.

  • Je viens de Paris. (I come from Paris.)
  • Tu viens de Toronto. (You come from Toronto.)
  • Il/elle vient à midi. (He/she is coming at noon.)
  • Nous venons de Tokyo. (We come from Tokyo.)
  • D’où venez-vous ? (Where do you come from?)
  • Ils/elles viennent à minuit. (They’re coming at midnight.)

 

Want more common French verbs? Check out the next 15 most common verbs below:

  • Dire means “to say,” and is an irregular verb.
  • Devoir means “to have to/must,” and is an irregular verb.
  • Donner means “to give,” and is a regular -er verb.
  • Falloir means “to need to/to be necessary,” and is an irregular verb.
  • Trouver means “to find,” and is a regular -er verb.
  • Manger means “to eat,” and is a regular -er verb.
  • Rendre means “to return/to give back,” and is a regular -re verb.
  • Mettre means “to put,” and is an irregular verb.
  • Rester means “to stay,” and is a regular -er verb.
  • Tenir means “to hold,” and is an irregular verb.
  • Prendre means “to take,” and is an irregular verb.
  • Passer means “to pass,” and is a regular -er verb.
  • Comprendre means “to understand,” and is an irregular verb (conjugated like prendre).
  • Sortir/partir are two verbs that mean “to leave,” and they’re both irregular verbs.

Still not enough?

Remember, these are just the most common verbs.

In fact, there are so many verbs in French, you can get a guide to conjugating 12,000 of them!

Want something more manageable? Try the famous “501 French Verbs.”

Remember, though, there’s more to French than just verbs. Don’t ignore other words. Be sure to learn your adjectives, prepositions, relative pronouns and more.

Happy learning!
 


 

And One More Thing…

While learning French with FluentU, you’ll learn the most-used verbs right along with the rest of the language.

FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks.

Since this video content is stuff that native French speakers actually watch on the regular, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French—the way it’s spoken in modern life.

However, with bilingual subtitles and quizzes, you’ll pick up on not just the spoken language but the written language as well.

One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:

2014 10 09 20.42.25 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions will guide you along the way, so you’ll never miss a word.

2014 10 09 20.44.00 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:

2014 10 09 20.44.51 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”

2014 10 09 20.45.27 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience. 

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.

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