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31 Crucial French Irregular Verbs and How to Conjugate Them

When learning French it can be challenging to remember whether a verb is conjugated regularly or irregularly, and how the spelling changes depending on the form. 

Patterns abound in regular verbs—whether you’re tackling the future tense, the past tense or even French grammar as a whole.

But there are some more patterns to find on the irregular side of things.

Let’s take a look at irregular verbs in French and try to point out as many patterns and groups as possible.


Irregular vs. Regular French Verbs

There are two types of verbs in French. The first type is called regular verbs. These verbs are regular because they follow a set pattern. These set patterns prevail in all tenses that a verb undergoes.

Primarily, regular verbs fall into one of three categories: verbs that end in -er, verbs that end in -ir or verbs that end in -re.

To conjugate these verbs in the present tense, simply chop off the last two letters and add the appropriate endings determined by the subject.

Irregular verbs, on the other hand, do not follow a pattern. Their final letters do not determine what conjugated endings they will receive.

As such, these verbs need to be memorized because even though there are far more regular verbs than irregular ones, irregular verbs encompass some of the most important and common verbs in the French language.

The Big Four Irregular French Verbs (Être, Avoir, Aller and Faire)

The following verbs are essential to know: être (to be), avoir (to have), aller (to go) and faire (to do/make). These four verbs are perhaps the most important irregular verbs in all of the French language.

Furthermore, the irregular verbs être (to be), avoir (to have) and aller (to go) are used in compound tenses: the first two being support verbs for the passé composé (the past perfect) and the third being a support verb for the futur proche (the near future).

Let’s see how these verbs are conjugated in the present tense:

Être (to be)

Je suis I am
Tu es you are
Il est / Elle est  he/she is
Nous sommes  we are
Vous êtes you are
Ils sont / Elles sont  they are (masculine/feminine)

Avoir (to have)

J'ai I have
Tu as you have
Il a / Elle a he/she has
Nous avons we have
Vous avez you have
Ils ont / Elles ont  they have (masculine/feminine)

Aller (to go)

J'ai I go
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

Faire (to do/make)

Je fais I do/make
Tu fais  you do/make
Il fait / Elle fait  he/she does/makes
Nous faisons  we do/make
Vous faites  you do/make
Ils font / Elles font  they do/make

Modal Verbs

Perhaps the second most important group of irregular verbs are the modals. 

Modal verbs are a very special type of verb in French. They are a type of helping verb that modifies the “mood” of the unconjugated verb that comes afterward, which is a fancy way to say that these verbs indicate ability, possibility, desire or necessity.

For example, the verbs vouloir (to want), pouvoir (to be able to), devoir (to have to) and savoir (to know) are all modal verbs.

Check out their conjugations:

Vouloir (to want)

Je veux I want
Tu veux you want
Il veut / Elle veut  he/she wants
Nous voulons we want
Vous voulez you want
Ils veulent / Elles veulent they want

Pouvoir (to be able to)

Je peux I can
Tu peux you can
Il peut / Elle peut  he/she can
Nous pouvons we can
Vous pouvez you can
Ils peuvent / Elles peuvent they can

Devoir (to have to)

Je dois I have to
Tu dois you have to
Il doit / Elle doit  he/she has to
Nous devons we have to
Vous devez you have to
Ils doivent / Elles doivent they have to

Savoir (to know)

Je sais I know
Tu sais you know
Il sait  / Elle sait   he/she knows
Nous savons we know
Vous savez you know
Ils savent / Elles savent they know

Irregular -ER Stem-changing Verbs

Those –er verbs you thought you had all figured out aren’t quite so regular after all but there are only a few exceptions.

In fact, these -er verb irregularities are called stem changes, and rather than being irregular verbs completely, they are simply a sub-class of -er verbs.

A stem change happens when the root of the verb (the base of the verb without -er) sees a spelling change before regular -er conjugation takes place.

With the subjects nous and/or vous, the conjugated verb is spelled differently from regular rules. Sometimes we need to add an extra letter. Other times, we must change or add an accent.

We’ll break down the main types of spelling-change verbs:

-Er Verbs with a “G”

-Er verbs that end with a “g” keep the “e” in the nous form. Some examples include manger (to eat) and nager (to swim) 

The reason has to do with pronunciation. Based on standard rules of French pronunciation, mangons would be pronounced with a hard “g” (as in “gopher”) as opposed to a soft “g” (as in “Germany.”)

Thus, in order to retain the “j” sound, we say nous mangeons (we eat) and nous nageons (we swim).

The other subjects are conjugated like normal -er verbs.

Below are the conjugations for the irregular, stem-changing –er verbs appeler (to call) and manger (to eat).

Appeler (to call)

J'appelle I call
Tu appelles you call
Il appelle / Elle appelle  he/she calls
Nous appelons we call
Vous appelez you call
Ils appellent / Elles appellent they call

With appeler, we double the “l” in certain conjugations to keep the longer -e sound before the “l.” If there were no double “l,” the preceding e would become a short e sound, which is not the correct pronunciation.

This same doubling-up happens with other verbs, as well such as rappeler (to call back) and jeter (to throw).

Manger (to eat)

Verb formMeaning
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

Most verbs that end in –ger keep their e in the nous form to keep that “g” sound. Some other verbs that have this same change include bouger (to move), corriger (to correct) and voyager (to travel).

Accent Omission Verbs

Some verbs have accent changes depending on the subject they’re used with. Some example are acheter  (to buy) and préférer (to prefer) 

In the nous and vous forms, the conjugated verb more closely resembles the infinitive.

For instance, acheter has an accent in all conjugated forms except the nous and vous forms. Otherwise, they’re conjugated like regular -er verbs.

J’achète  I buy
Tu achètes you buy
Il achète  / Elle achète   he/she buys
Nous achetons  we buy
Vous achetez  you buy
Ils achètent / Elles achètent  they buy

Préférer is similar. The double accent aigu (acute accent) stays only in the nous and vous forms.

Je préfère  I prefer
Tu préfères you prefer
Il préfère  / Elle préfère   he/she prefers
Nous préférons  we prefer
Vous préférez  you prefer
Ils préfèrent / Elles préfèrent  they prefer

Accent Addition Verbs

Similarly, verbs like commencer  (to begin) and effacer (to erase) undergo an accent change. However, it’s that one is added (not omitted) in the nous and vous forms.

For pronunciation purposes, we must add a cédille (cedilla—the little “tail” accent) to the “c” in the nous and vous forms. Otherwise, these verbs are conjugated like typical -er verbs.

Je commence  I begin
Tu commences you begin
Il commence  / Elle commence   he/she begins
Nous commençons  we begin
Vous commençez  you begin
Ils commencent / Elles commencent  they begin

Keep the “Y” Verbs

Additional major spelling-change verb types are those such as payer (to pay) and envoyer  (to send), in which the “y” becomes an “i” in all forms except the nous and vous forms.

Otherwise, they’re conjugated like other -er verbs.

Je paie  I pay
Tu paies you pay
Il paie  / Elle paie   he/she pays
Nous payons  we pay
Vous payez  you pay
Ils paient / Elles paient  they pay

Irregular -IR Verbs

The following –ir verbs are considered irregular: tenir (to keep) and venir (to come).

Tenir (to keep)

Je tiens  I keep
Tu tiens you keep
Il tient  / Elle tient   he/she keeps
Nous tenons we keep
Vous tenez  you keep
Ils tiennent / Elles tiennent they keep

Venir (to come)

Je viens  I come
Tu viens you come
Il vient  / Elle vient   he/she comes
Nous venons we come
Vous venez  you come
Ils viennent / Elles viennent they come

Some other verbs conjugated like these two include devenir (to become), obtenir (to obtain) and appartenir (to belong to).

Ouvrir (to open)

Confusingly, the verb ouvrir (to open) is different from a regular -ir verb because it’s conjugated like an –er verb. Check it out:

J'ouvre  I open
Tu ouvres you open
Il ouvre  / Elle ouvre   he/she opens
Nous ouvrons we open
Vous ouvrez you open
Ils ouvrent / Elles ouvrent they open

Other verbs that are conjugated like this include découvrir (to discover) and couvrir (to cover).

Irregular Verbs in the Partir Family

Although these verbs aren’t simply built off one another, they’re conjugated in the same way as one another.

Remove the last three letters of the infinitive (“tir” or “mir”) and add the appropriate endings. The singular tense conjugations follow the pattern “s,” “s,” “t.”

The good news is that the plural forms closely resemble regular -er verbs. Partir means “to leave.” For example:

Je pars pour Angleterre demain (I leave for England tomorrow).

Je pars  I leave
Tu pars you leave
Il part  / Elle part   he/she leaves
Nous partons  we leave
Vous partez  you leave
Ils partent / Elles partent  they leave

Some other verbs in this group include sortir (to exit), mentir (to lie), dormir (to sleep) and sentir (to feel).

Irregular -OIR Verbs

The next two verbs end in –oir. When conjugated, voir and recevoir have the same endings, even though their stems change throughout the conjugation.

We’ll start with voir:

Voir (to see)

Je vois  I see
Tu vois you see
Il voit  / Elle voit   he/she sees
Nous voyons we see
Vous voyez  you see
Ils voient / Elles voient they see

Recevoir (to receive)

Je reçois  I receive
Tu reçois you receive
Il reçoit  / Elle reçoit   he/she receives
Nous recevons we receive
Vous recevez  you receive
Ils reçoivent / Elles reçoivent they receive

Irregular -RE Stem-changing Verbs

Let’s start off simple with prendre and apprendre. These two verbs are almost regular except for a few stem changes. This is different from regular -re verbs because they drop an extra letter in the nous and vous forms.

Prendre (to take)

Je prends  I take
Tu prends you take
Il prend  / Elle prend  he/she takes
Nous prenons we take
Vous prenez  you take
Ils prennent / Elles prennent they take

Apprendre (to learn)

J'apprends  I learn
Tu apprends you learn
Il apprend  / Elle apprend  he/she learns
Nous apprenons we learn
Vous apprenez  you learn
Ils apprennent / Elles apprennent they learn

Other verbs conjugated like these two include comprendre (to understand) and surprendre (to surprise).

Four Main Irregular -RE Verbs

Yay for more groups! These verbs are also conjugated similarly.

Rire (to laugh)

Je ris  I laugh
Tu ris you laugh
Il rit  / Elle rit  he/she laughs
Nous rions we laugh
Vous riez  you laugh
Ils rient / Elles rient they laugh

Dire (to say)

Je dis  I say
Tu dis you say
Il dit  / Elle dit  he/she says
Nous disons we say
Vous dites  you say
Ils disent / Elles disent they say

Écrire (to write)

J'écris  I write
Tu écris  you write
Il écrit  / Elle écrit  he/she writes
Nous écrivons we write
Vous écrivez  you write
Ils écrivent / Elles écrivent they write

Lire (to read)

Je lis  I read
Tu lis you read
Il lit  / Elle lit  he/she reads
Nous lisons we read
Vous lisez  you read
Ils lisent / Elles lisent they read

Other -RE Irregular Verbs

Croire (to believe) and boire (to drink) are two more irregular verbs we can pair together. While their conjugations aren’t identical, they’re similar.

Croire (to believe)

Je crois  I believe
Tu crois  you believe
Il croit  / Elle croit  he/she believes
Nous croyons  we believe
Vous croyez  you believe
Ils croient  / Elles croient  they believe

Boire (to drink)

Je bois  I drink
Tu bois  you drink
Il boit  / Elle boit  he/she drinks
Nous buvons  we drink
Vous buvez  you drink
Ils boivent / Elles boivent  they drink

And the following are miscellaneous irregular –re verbs. The first two are almost regular -re verbs, but they drop an extra letter in their jetuil and elle forms.

Battre (to hit)

Je bats  I hit
Tu bats  you hit
Il bat  / Elle bat  he/she hits
Nous battons  we hit
Vous battez  you hit
Ils battent  / Elles battent  they hit

Mettre (to put)

Je mets  I put
Tu mets  you put
Il met  / Elle met  he/she puts
Nous mettons  we put
Vous mettez  you put
Ils mettent / Elles mettent  they put

Other verbs conjugated like mettre include admettre (to admit), permettre (to permit) and promettre (to promise).

The final irregular -re verb I’ll include—as well as the last in this post—is vivre (to live).

Vivre (to live)

Je vis  I live
Tu vis  you live
Il vit  / Elle vit  he/she lives
Nous vivons  we live
Vous vivez  you live
Ils vivent / Elles vivent  they live

How to Practice Irregular French Verbs

Once you finish soaking up this post, you’ll want to put your new knowledge to practice right away.

  • First check out this article on Wikitionary for a complete list of irregular, present tense verbs in French.
  • Laura K. Lawless of Lawless French has tons of great reference articles on irregular verbs (in addition to almost any topic of the French language). Following the link above, just click on the group you want to read more about (irregular -er, -ir or -re), and you’ll find helpful explanations and loads of clear examples.
  • Her partner site Progress with Lawless French, powered by Kwiziq, has “kwizzes” you can take to practice grammar, assess your level and receive a personalized study plan. Free accounts are limited to 10 quizzes per month, while Premium accounts are available via a paid monthly subscription.
  • To continue practicing, Conjuguemos, the University of Texas and About French also have some great free quizzes online. 
  • You can also watch and learn from FluentU’s library of authentic French videos to internalize the conjugations. You can click on specific verb conjugations in the interactive subtitles and add them to your vocabulary list. You can also study it using FluentU’s personalized quizzes.

  • Sporcle French Irregular Verbs Quiz tests the most common and important irregular verbs: être, avoir, aller and faire (to be, to have, to go and to do, respectively).
  • With “FrogVerb” Irregular Verbs, you help a frog catch the flies that have the proper conjugated form of the requested verb. It’s an engaging way to review irregular verbs. Plus, if you want to focus on specific verbs or keep ones you don’t know out of the game, you can customize which verbs appear.
  • This 10-question multiple choice quiz is a quick and simple way to find out how well you understand French irregular verbs.
  • This fill-in-the-blank quiz is also 10 questions (it does include some verbs not mentioned here) testing your knowledge of irregular verbs.
  • Reverso Conjugation isn’t exactly a practice tool, but it’s a great reference source for double-checking how a specific verb is conjugated or for learning new verbs. Simply type in the verb you want and it’ll show you every possible form, including other tenses (past, future, subjunctive).
  • Finally, you can always use a handy-dandy online conjugator for those times when you just can’t remember how to conjugate a verb.


The good news: the majority of French verbs follow the rules.

The bad news: the most common and important ones don’t.

The better news: you just learned what many of those verbs are, as well as how to conjugate and use them properly.

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