1. What is the present tense in English?
It's what you use to talk about what's happening at the present time. Here are some examples:
2. How do you say that in French?
- I watch television every day.
- I am watching television now.
- I do watch television often.
3. You mean "I watch", "I am watching", and "I do watch" are all translated the same way?
- Je regarde la télévision tous les jours.
- Je regarde la télévision maintenant.
- Je regarde la télévision souvent.
Yes. Remember, French people don't think in English!
4. So how do you form the present tense?
A short answer is "stem and endings." But first some background. You need to know what an infinitive is. It's the verb form that you find in the dictionary. In English it's the "to" form ("to watch"). There is a very large group of verbs in French called -er verbs because their infinitive ends in -er. Here are some examples:
5. You mentionned "stem and endings". What's that about?
- regarder = to watch, look at
- travailler = to work
- parler = to speak
- rencontrer = to meet
- oublier = to forget
In English all the verb forms are the same with the exception of the "he" form.
In French, though, all the forms have a separate ending, not just the "he" form. In the chart below, the blue is the stem, and the red is the ending.
|I watch|| ||We watch|
|You (sing.) watch|| ||You (pl.) watch|
|He watches|| ||They watch|
6. So if I find an infinitive in the dictionary that ends in -er, I can form the "je" form just by combining the stem and ending?
|je regarde|| ||nous regardons|
|tu regardes|| ||vous regardez|
|il regarde|| ||ils regardent|
Yes. Check out the examples below.
|travailler|| ||je travaille|
|oublier|| ||j' oublie|
|rencontrer|| ||je rencontre|
|trouver|| ||je trouve|
7. This is pretty easy. What's the catch?
Well, not all verbs end in -er in the infinitive form. There are also -re verbs and -ir verbs. But the pattern is the same, stem and endings. You still get the stem by dropping the last two letters of the infinitive, but the endings are slightly different. Here's attendre (to wait for), an example of an -re verb:
|j' attends|| ||nous attendons|
|tu attends|| ||vous attendez|
|il attend|| ||ils attendent|
The same pattern holds true for -ir verbs. Here's finir (to finish), an example of an -ir verb:
|je finis|| ||nous finissons|
|tu finis|| ||vous finissez|
|il finit|| ||ils finissent|
8. Okay, so I just have to memorize three sets of endings instead of one. That's not so bad.
Unfortunately, there are some verbs that don't follow this stem/endings pattern. They are called irregular verbs. Here are some of the most important irregular verbs:
avoir (to have)
| ||j' ai|| ||nous avons|
| ||tu as|| ||vous avez|
| ||il a|| ||ils ont|
être (to be)
| ||je suis|| ||nous sommes|
| ||tu es|| ||vous êtes|
| ||il est|| ||ils sont|
aller (to go)
| ||je vais|| ||nous allons|
| ||tu vas|| ||vous allez|
| ||il va|| ||ils vont|
faire (to make, to do)
| ||je fais|| ||nous faisons|
| ||tu fais|| ||vous faites|
| ||il fait|| ||ils font|
mettre (to put, to put on, wear)
| ||je mets|| ||nous mettons|
| ||tu mets|| ||vous mettez|
| ||il met|| ||ils mettent|
prendre (to take, to have (food))
| ||je prends|| ||nous prenons|
| ||tu prends|| ||vous prenez|
| ||il prend|| ||ils prennent|
pouvoir (can, to be able)
| ||je peux|| ||nous pouvons|
| ||tu peux|| ||vous pouvez|
| ||il peut|| ||ils peuvent|
vouloir (to want)
| ||je veux|| ||nous voulons|
| ||tu veux|| ||vous voulez|
| ||il veut|| ||ils veulent|
Present Tense Quiz
Take this practice quiz on the present tense. You'll need to know both regular -er verbs and some irregular verbs. Log on to Funbrain with your name and the secret word "hauppauge".