French -ER Verbs: Simple Guide with Regular and Irregular Conjugation
In French, verbs that end in -er are by far the most common, making up around 90% of all verbs in the language. It’s easy to see why knowing how to conjugate them is a must-have skill!
To that end, here’s your full guide to French –er verbs, including conjugation tables, simple explanations, and tips on how to spot irregular verbs.
- What Are French -er Verbs?
- Conjugating Regular -er Verbs
- Irregular French -er Verbs
What Are French -er Verbs?
French -er verbs—meaning, verbs that end in -er—are by far the most common type of verb in the language. There are more than a thousand of them!
Their number continues to grow as well: As the language changes over time and more neologisms and anglicisms find their way into French, they always take the form of –er verbs.
Indeed, as French learners, they are usually the first verbs we deal with before moving on to regular –ir and -re verbs. It’s safe to say that regular –er verbs are the bread and butter of French verbs.
Common -er verbs in French
I know what you’re thinking: “Let’s see some verbs, already!”
Here’s a list of common –er verbs:
|Aimer||to like, to love|
|Rester||to stay, to remain|
|Visiter||to visit a place|
|Aller [irregular]||to go|
|Gagner||to win, to earn|
|Marcher||to walk, to function|
Conjugating Regular -er Verbs
When conjugating -er verbs in French, you usually take off the -er and replace it with a different ending (with the exception of the conditional mood, which follows a different system).
With regular verbs, these endings follow a pattern—they stay the same for each person. Here’s an example conjugation chart with the verb manger (to eat), with the new verb endings in bold:
|Je mange||I eat|
|Tu manges||you eat|
|Il mange / Elle mange||he/she eats|
|Nous mangeons||we eat|
|Vous mangez||you eat (formal), you all eat|
|Ils mangent / Elles mangent||they eat|
Now, let’s take a look at the different conjugation patterns of the present tenses of the indicative, the conditional, the subjunctive and the imperative, as well as the imperfect past tense. They’re each built around a stem.
The French present tense is used to express habitual actions, current actions and situations, statements of generally-accepted knowledge and actions that will immediately occur.
|J'aime courir||I like to run.|
|Tu aimes courir||You like to run. (informal)|
|Il/elle aime||He/she likes to run.|
|Nous aimons courir||We like to run.|
|Vous aimez courir||You (formal)/you all like to run.|
|Ils/elles aiment courir||They like to run.|
The conditional mood is used to refer to hypothetical events as well as to make polite requests. The verb aimer (to like, to love), is especially apt for polite requests. The conditional stem for regular –er verbs is the same as its infinitive.
|J'aimerais partir.||I would like to leave.|
|Tu aimerais partir.||You would like to leave.|
|Il/elle aimerait partir.||He/she would like to leave.|
|Nous aimerions partir.||We would like to leave.|
|Vous aimeriez partir.||You (formal), you all would like to leave.|
|Ils aimeraient partir.||They would like to leave.|
The subjunctive mood conveys actions or ideas that are uncertain or subjective such as doubt, judgment and necessity. The stem for conjugating the subjunctive form of aimer (to like, to love) is aim-.
|Il suppose que j'aime la ville.||He supposes that I like the city.|
|Il suppose que tu aimes la ville.||He supposes that you like the city.|
|Il suppose qu'elle aime la ville.||He supposes that she likes the city.|
|Il suppose que nous aimions la ville.||He supposes that we like the city.|
|Il suppose que vous aimiez la ville.||He supposes that you (formal)/you all like the city.|
|Il suppose que elles aiment la ville.||He supposes that they like the city.|
The French imperative is used to give commands. We only conjugate it in the tu, nous and vous forms.
|Aime ta planète.||Love your planet.|
|Aimons notre planète.||Love our planet.|
|Aimez votre planète.||Love your planet. (formal)|
The imperfect is a past tense used to describe an ongoing state, repeated or incomplete action.
Across the board for –er, -ir and –re verbs, the imperfect stem is formed by dropping the -ons ending from the present indicative nous (we) form. The nous form of aimer is aimons, so the stem is aim–. Let’s take a look at the endings now:
|J'aimais courir .||I liked to run.|
|Tu aimais courir.||You liked to run.|
|Il aimait courir.||He liked to run.|
|Nous aimions courir.||We liked to run.|
|Vous aimiez courir.||You (formal)/you all liked to run.|
|Ils aimaient courir.||They liked to run.|
Irregular French -er Verbs
Aller (to go) is the only truly irregular verb in the French language, but there are some other stem-changing and spelling change verbs that could also be put into this category.
The verb aller (to go) has a completely irregular conjugation that doesn’t follow any predictable pattern. See for yourself:
|Tu as||you go|
|Il a / Elle a||he/she goes|
|Nous avons||we go|
|Vous avez||you go
|Ils ont / Elles ont||they go
Spelling change verbs
Spelling change verbs always end in –cer or –ger, so they’re easy to spot. They are conjugated in much the same way as regular -er verbs, but with occasional spelling changes. The spelling changes, which only occur in a few conjugations, are done to maintain proper pronunciation.
Here are a few examples of –cer and –ger verbs:
- placer (to place)
- effacer (to erase)
- lancer (to throw)
- nager (to swim)
- déranger (to disturb)
- diriger (to direct)
Stem-changing verbs take the regular endings, but their stems change spelling, with two different versions of each one depending on the grammatical person. You can recognize them by their endings: –yer, -eler, -eter, -e_er, or -é_er.
Here are some examples of this type of verb:
Check out this article for more information on irregular French verbs:
Well now you have it. The complete guide to French –er verbs.
Now get out there and conjugate some verbs!