French Language Blog

Spoken French: What Conjugations? Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Grammar

Speaking French is easy! Sure, there’s a ton of conjugaisons, but they don’t always matter when you speak. I’ve touched on des fautes (mistakes) francophones make when writing French and how ces fautes can be useful in learning how to speak like un vrai français (a real French person).

This time we’re not going to focus on une faute, but a nice thing to remember to make speaking French easy. Les verbes réguliers (regular verbs) are pronounced the same for the vast majority of their conjugaisons in le présent de l’indicatif. It’s a bit more complicated for les verbes irréguliers (irregular verbs), but first let’s look at the easy ones with the regular verb, parler.

Parler To speak

Je parle
Tu parles
Il/elle parle
Nous parlons
Vous parlez
Ils parlent

The classic conjugaison chart doesn’t tell us everything about how French is used. D’abord (first of all), in modern casual French, “Nous” is rarely used. Le pronomon” is used in its place and is conjugated exactly like Il and Elle. That leaves “Vous parlez” as the only outlier that needs to be remembered, because “Ils parlent” is pronounced just like the other conjugaisons!

Je parle
Tu parles
Il/elle parle
On parle
Ils parlent

Toutes ces conjugaisons (all of these conjugations) are pronounced “Parl”.  De plus (what’s more), this isn’t limited to le premier groupe de conjugaisons! Although for le deuxième groupe it only stays true for the first four conjugaisons. Cependant (however), it is also often true for les verbes irréguliers du troisième groupe!

Too much grammar vocabulary makes things confusing, so let’s just look at a couple examples: Finir from le deuxième groupe (the second group) and prendre from le troisième groupe (the third group).

Finir To finish             Prendre To take

Je finis                        Je prends
Tu finis                       Tu prends
Il/elle finit                    Il/elle prend
On finit                       On prend
Ils finissent                 Ils prennent

Finis and finit are both pronounced as “fini”, but finissent is prouncned as “finis”. De la même manière (in the same way) prends and prend are both pronounced as “pron” (with a nasal vowel), but prennent is pronounced as “pren”.

If you’re still scratching your head thinking it’s too complicated, just remember that it’s very similar to how conjugaisons work in English.

To speak                 To finish                    To take

I speak                     I finish                       I take
You speak               You finish                  You take
He/she speaks        He/she finishes         He/she takes
We speak                We finish                   We take
They speak             They finish                They take

They are all pronounced (and fortunately written) the same except for la troisième personne du singulier, or more clearly, for he and she. You still have to be CaReFuL about how you pronounce French words, but remember it’s easier than it looks!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.