The verb in French is the most important element of a statement or question, since it conveys so much information: the person, the action or state, and the time of the action.
An infinitive is the unconjugated form of the verb. For example, to be is an English infi nitive. French infi nitives are single words; they do not contain the element to.
Conjugations are the verb forms that belong to particular subjects. I am and he is are conjugations of the English infi nitive to be.
The Verbs être (to be) and avoir (to have)
être (to be) and avoir (to have) are the most common French verbs. It makes sense to learn them fi rst. You will fi nd être and avoir everywhere: in descriptions, in idiomatic expressions, as linking verbs, and as helping (auxiliary)
verbs in compound tenses.
Like many common French verbs, être and avoir are irregular—with special conjugation patterns. You will begin to learn regular verbs in ,next post
Je suis américain. I am American.
Nous avons deux enfants. We have two children
Etre and Subject Pronouns
All verb conjugations in French have six “persons.” Three are singular,corresponding
to: I, you (familiar), and he/she/it/one. Three are plural, corresponding to: we, you (pol. singular, and fam. or pol. plural), and they. The verb être has six different conjugated forms:
Present Tense of être (to be)
1st Person je suis I am
2nd Person tu es you are (fam.)
3rd Person il est he /it is
elle est she/it is
on est one is, we/they are
1st Person nous sommes we are
2nd Person vous êtes you are (pol.s.;fam./pol. pl.)
3rd Person ils sont they (m. pl.) are
elles sont they (f. pl.) are
As in English, conjugated forms of French verbs are preceded by one of the following:
• A common noun (a person, animal, place, thing, or idea)
• A proper noun (a name)
• Or a subject pronoun (a word used in place of a noun)
PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL
1st je/j’ I nous we
2nd tu you (fam.) vous you (pol. s.; fam./pol. pl.)
3rd il he/it (m.) ils they (m. pl. or mixed)
elle she/it (f.) elles they (f. pl.)
Gender and Number
Remember that all French nouns have gender and number: Every noun is either masculine or feminine (le livre, la table), and either singular or plural (l’hôtel [m.], les hôtels).
The subject pronoun of a conjugated verb corresponds to the gender and number of the noun (a person or thing) that it replaces.
La table est dans le salon. The table is in the living room.
Elle (La table) est dans le salon . It is in the living room.
Context will help you determine the person or object the subject pronoun
Uses of Subject Pronouns
Conjugated verb forms in French are always preceded by a noun or a subject
Verb Forms Without Subjects
Verb infi nitives, commands and present participles do not include a noun subject or a subject
• To avoid repetition, the subject pronoun often replaces a noun.
Richard est en ville. Richard is downtown.
Il est au cinéma. He is at the movies.
Mes soeurs sont en voyage. sisters are on a trip.
Elles sont à Lille. They’re in Lille.
• Je (I). In French, je is capitalized only when it begins a sentence. Like the defi nite articles le and la, je drops (elides) the letter -e before a vowel sound. It is replaced by an apostrophe and closed up to the conjugated verb.
Je suis content; j’ai un am happy; I have a new job.
• Tu and vous (you). Tu (with its verb form) is always singular. It is used to speak to one person who is a friend or relative, to a child, or to a pet. Vous is used to speak to someone you don’t know well or to anyone with whom you have a relationship of respect, for example, strangers, new acquaintances, salespeople, or professionals. The plural of both tu and vous is vous (with its conjugated verb form).
Sylvie, tu es étudiante? Sylvie, are you a student?
Pardon, Madame, vous êtes Excuse me, Ma’am, are you
la mère de Sylvie? Sylvie’s mother?
Attention les enfants! Vous Children! Are you ready?
Do as the Natives Do
As you get to know a native speaker of French, a good rule of thumb for the nonnative is to wait until your new friend addresses you with tu, before starting to use tu with him or her.
• Il and ils; elle and elles. The English subject pronouns he, she, it (singular), and they (plural) are expressed by il or ils (for masculine nouns) and elle or elles (for feminine nouns).
Elles sont formidables! They (fem. persons or things) are fantastic!
Il est drôle. He/It (The puppy[?]) is funny.
The plural ils (they, m. pl.) refers to any group that includes at least one masculine noun.
Voilà Marie, Anne et Patrick. There’s Marie, Anne, and Patrick.
—Ils sont en retard! —They’re late!
• On. The subject pronoun on (third-person singular) is used in French to convey the English indefi nite subjects one, we, people, and they.
Alors, on est d’accord? O.K., so we agree?
Le matin, on est en bonne In the morning, they (we, people)
forme. feel good.
Modern speech often replaces nous (we) by on. The adjective can be spelled in the singular or the plural.
Vous êtes fatigués? You’re tired?
—Oui, on est très fatigué(s)! —Yes, we’re all (everybody’s)
(—Oui, nous sommes très very tired!