French Language Blog

Le Bescherelle: Your Gateway to French Conjugation Posted by on Jun 19, 2014 in Grammar, Vocabulary

In the last post, we looked at indefinite articles and how to conjugate the verbs avoir (to have) and être (to be) in the most basic tense (present indicative). If you want to learn French, getting a grasp on these fundamentals is a must. There is no other way around it.

So what if you want to learn to conjugate different verbs in different tenses? After all, you’re not going to use the verbs avoir and être in the present indicative tense all the time. The French language is beautifully complex and if you want to attain a decent level of proficiency, you’re going to have to learn to conjugate a variety of verbs in a variety of tenses.

Thankfully, there exists a book that provides this information in an easy to read, easy to understand format that will teach you the basics of la conjugaison (conjugation).

Le Bescherelle is a fantastic French language grammar reference book that I highly recommend. I have Le Nouveau Besherelle: L’Art de Conjuguer which is an abridged version that has been a part of my library for decades. Despite its rather diminutive size, it contains no less than 12,000 French verbs. You will most likely use only a few of these tenses, namely Présent (Present), Passé Composé (Passé Composé—no translation), Imparfait (Imperfect), Plus-que-Parfait (Pluperfect),  Futur Simple (Future), Futur Antérieur (Future Perfect) and Conditionnel (Conditional Perfect). Some are used more frequently in everyday language while others may only be found in books containing Old French but the list is exhaustive and should serve as a handy reference as your level of proficiency increases.

Le Bescherelle: L’Art de Conjuguer (The Art of Conjugating) is the first volume in a 3-volume series. The second volume is aptly titled L’Art de l’Orthographe (The Art of Orthography/Spelling) and the third La Grammaire Pour Tous (Grammar for Everyone). I would recommend picking up all three but if you’re going to start with one, pick L’Art de Conjuguer. It will keep you busy for a while.

Le Bescherelle is named after its principal author Louis-Nicholas Bescherelle, un lexicographe et grammairien (a lexicographer and grammarian) who lived in the 19th century. Several editions have been published in the last century but they all offer basically similar information with slight format variations to ease comprehension.

If you are determined to master French or if you just want to expand your understanding of conjugation, this is the book for you.

You can pick up a new or used copy at Amazon or even download the iPhone or iPad app. Either way, le Bescherelle will undoubtedly become one of your favorite reference tools as you navigate la langue Française (the French language).

Bonne chance! (Good luck!)


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