French Language Blog

French Verbs – The Present Posted by on Aug 24, 2009 in Grammar

Let’s talk a little grammar!  First of all, French verb phrases can be indicatif which expresses an event as being certain whether it occurs in the past, present or future.  They can be in le subjonctif which is used in a subordinate clause to express an assessment or interpretation or it can be used after some conjunctions.  Verb phrases in French can also be in le conditionnel which basically expresses what is possible or potential.  It can also be used to express the future in the past.  They can also be in l’impératif which is used to express an order.  L’infinitif is an impersonal mood that can take on a simple form (l’infinitif présent) or a compound form (l’infinitif passé).  Finally, there’s le participe.  There are two types: the present participle and the past participle.

Today though, we’ll just discuss le présent indicatif.
1. Je vais à la piscine tous les vendredis. (I go to the pool every Friday.)
2. Les enfants jouent dans la piscine. (The children are playing in the pool.)
3. Nous sommes à la piscine depuis trois heures. (We’ve been at the pool for three hours.)
4. On va à la piscine dans quelques minutes. (We’re going to the pool in a few minutes.)
5. Ce documentaire de l’été en France décrit la vie à la plage. (This documentary on summers in France describes life on the beach.)
6. L’eau gèle à 32ºF.  (Water freezes at 32ºF.)
7. Si tu viens à la plage en août, nous nous verrons. (If you come to the beach in August, we’ll see each other.)

You should note that in the above sentences, all the verbs are in the simple present tense.  Unlike in English, you can use the present in French to express a situation that is going on at the time of speaking (ex. 2/present continuous in English), an event that began in the past and continues into the present (ex. 3/present perfect in English) and an event that will happen in the immediate future (ex. 4/be going to in English).  Like in English, the present indicative can be used to express habits and repetitive events (ex. 1), in an analysis or summary (ex. 5), to express a fact that is always true or a general truth (6) and also to form a hypothesis about the future that is very possible (ex. 7).
So, just from these few points, it is more than obvious that direct translation just doesn’t work.  You have to get to the point where you’re thinking in French when you speak and write!

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