These French verbs had me scratching my head a lot when I was in the process of learning French!
First of all I would like to say that there are ways to trigger your memory. Here is an excellent guide to French verb conjugations to get you started.
Here are my tips to help you learn French conjugations more quickly and effectively:
- Get creative! It’s the perfect way to get your creativity juices flowing and create colorful posters and sheets for every verb. I used to stick the ones I found trickiest on the wall in my bedroom. I would use highlighters and bright colors for all the different verb endings.
- Small flashcards are great. I found it easier to remember smaller amounts of verb conjugations than huge sheets of various ones.
- Always learn your French verb conjugation with audio recordings, otherwise, you may miss important liaisons and silent letters. I suggest you check-out French Today’s French Verb Drills which will not only provide the correct pronunciation, but help you exercise in drilling the conjugations in a fun and efficient audio format.
- Once you’ve memorized the right pronunciation, you can record yourself saying verb conjugations out loud (on your phone) and then play them back over and check your pronunciation to Camille’s!
Now, there are some verbs which are particularly tricky to conjugate. Here is a list of 5 of the trickiest verbs to conjugate in French (in my opinion) and why!:
Être (To Be)
Number 1 spot goes to ‘être’ (which ironically is one of the most used verbs in the French language) but I find that many students have issues with this verb! Note that it is indeed a very irregular verb, and furthermore, its pronunciation differs quite a lot between enunciated and modern French.
Follow this link to Camille’s free article where she recorded the modern and classical pronunciations of the various conjugations of the verb “to be” in French.
I think many people have trouble conjugating ‘être’ in the future and conditional tenses due to the fact it does not look at all like the verb in its infinitive form. Take a look:
It also looks quite ‘different’ in the present tense:
This is a verb you must learn as you’ll use it all the time in French so spend as much time as you need on remembering all its forms, but start by knowing the most useful one: the present tense.
Aller (To Go)
Aller (to go) is another verb which causes issues amongst learners. Again it is an irregular verb and in the French future and conditional it ‘looks’ entirely different:
In the present tense it also changes quite a bit. When I work with students, they tend to forget completely how to conjugate ‘aller’ in the present tense (and it is a verb they use so so often in their French lessons).
Je vais, je vais, je vais !! Repetition, repetition, repetition!
Venir (To Come)
What’s frustrating with the -ir ending verbs is that you never know which ones are regular and which ones are irregular!
Venir (to come) is a very irregular verb that has its own conjugation rules. It its conjugated form in the present tense it looks like this:
This can be quite difficult to grasp at first for learners. The endings can be tricky to remember. Plus, , ‘venir’ is a MRS VANDERTRAMP verb – meaning it’s conjugated with être in the passé-composé.
je suis venu
tu es venu
il/elle/on est venu/venue
nous sommes venus
vous êtes venus
ils/elles sont venus/venues
Trying to remember which verbs take être and which don’t is a common difficulty for French learners (if this is you, don’t worry – you aren’t alone! – and camille wrote an excellent article about it : follow this link to understand why French verb conjugate with ‘être’ rather than with ‘avoir’ in the passé composé:)
Pouvoir (can, Be Able To)
Pouvoir (can, to be able to) is another funny verb. Of course, it is a very commonly used verb, but it is highly irregular. Its most difficult conjugated forms to remember are the present tense and the passé composé.
Weird looking, right?
tu as pu
il/elle/on a pu
nous avons pu
vous avez pu
ils/elles ont pu
Funny side note, the past participle “pu” sounds just like the present tense of the verb “puer” : “tu pues” which means ‘you stink’. It always made me laugh!
*Also note that the verb ‘vouloir’ (to want) follows the same conjugation patterns as ‘pouvoir’.
Voir (to see)
Our final tricky verb is ‘voir’ (to see). This verb changes significantly in both its future and conditional tense forms :
Even though this verbs has a double R, remember the French R is not usually rolled: follow this link to Camille’s free article on how to pronounce the French R – with audio recordings.
“Voir” also has an interesting imperfect tense form: (note that it takes on a ‘y’)
I remember having a hard time remembering all the tenses for this verb!
As you can see from the list above, the most difficult to conjugate French verbs are all irregular.
Hopefully now that I have mentioned these specific verbs you will now focus on them and learn them so that they no longer give you as many problems.
What about you? Do you agree with my selection? What’s your ‘worst’ French verb to memorize? Do you have tips to share on how to memorize French verbs?