7 Common French Verbs You Need To Know

Do you want to start speaking French with confidence faster? The key is knowing what to focus on first, so you don’t become overwhelmed with information — and that starts with knowing common French verbs.

You don’t need complicated verbs like coudre (= to sew), battre (= to beat) or maintenir (= to maintain) right now. French vocabulary is endless, so instead of getting your high school books from the attic to refresh your French, let’s look at the common French verbs that actually matter.

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher. Welcome to Comme une Française.
Today, like every Tuesday, I’ll help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French.
C’est parti !

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1) Aimer

First-group verbs are all the verbs that end in -er (except Aller, which we’ll look at in a minute.) Like aimer (= to love) !

First-group verbs are regular: they all have the same conjugation, with the same endings. That’s why if you learn one, you basically learn them all.

So, you can use all these verbs quickly with only Savoir aimer, or “Knowing the conjugation for “aimer” (= to love).”

For example:

a) If you know that “Je t’aime” means “I love you,” then you can deduce that another first-group verb like Arriver (= to arrive) has the same ending in the first person too!

So, it would make J’arrive (= I’m on my way)

b) After you learn that Nous aimons means “We love,” you can see that donner (= to give) with Nous similarly makes: Nous donnons (= We give.)

c) After knowing that Ils aiment means “They love,” you can apply it to verbs like tourner (= to turn) or danser (= to dance). In the third person plural, they’ll make: Et ils tournent, et ils dansent (= and they turn, and they dance).

There’s a whole bunch of first-group verbs, and you can learn how to use them very quickly so you can have more diverse French conversations with people.

2) Finir (The extra mile)

Second-group verbs are verbs that end in -ir and share together the same conjugation. Just like with the first-group verbs, learning one of these French verbs is akin to learning them all.

For example: Finir (= “to finish, to end.”) Or choisir (= “to choose.”)

Je finis ça et j’arrive ! = I’m finishing this and I’ll be on my way!

However, the second group is less useful than the first group, because:

  • A lot of verbs in -ir are actually irregular (aka 3rd group verbs)
  • We only use a handful of second-group verbs in real everyday French life and conversation

They’re useful, of course, but I don’t think they’re actually a priority if you want to to quickly start speaking French. That’s why I didn’t mention them in the actual video lesson.

3) Être et Avoir

Être = to be
Avoir = to have

Chances are, you already know about these verbs. They’re used in the conjugation of all the other French verbs in composite tenses — and they’re very irregular.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut here: you have to learn the full conjugation for the six French subjects in the present:

Everytime I catch a cold, I know I’ll have the song “Je suis malade” in my head for a week. I’m not even a fan of Serge Lama or Lara Fabian! It’s just catchy – and useful to know every once in a while.

These two verbs are also useful to just talk about… life. Or anything, really!

Such as J’ai rendez-vous avec vous (= I have a date with you) or Je suis malade (= I am ill.)

4) Aller et Venir

The irregular verbs Aller (= to go) and Venir (= to come here, to come from) are often used in French everyday life. Their present conjugation is:

Je vais à Rio de Janeiro (= I’m going to Rio de Janeiro)
Je viens des plaines (= I come from the plains)

But they also have a secret power. With only the conjugation of aller and venir in the present, you can talk about the past and the future using any other verb!

  • NEAR FUTURE:
    Aller (présent) + [verb in the infinitive] = going to (+ verb)
  • IMMEDIATE PAST:
    Venir (présent) + de + [verb in the infinitive] = I just… (+ verb in past)

For example:

Manger (= to eat)
Je vais manger. = I’m going to eat. (future)
Je viens de manger. = I just ate. (past)

It’s a huge shortcut!

The point of this lesson is to help you start speaking some French very quickly, so you can start feeling more confident, and less afraid of making mistakes. Don’t spend weeks in your books before speaking. Have fun in French!

You can learn more about these verbs, and the other verbs that matter in my program Test Your Conjugation for Beginners!

In this program, you’ll get:

  • The verbs and tenses that you really need to speak French (or refresh your rusty French and have fun by actually using it)
  • Fully detailed conjugation lessons, step-by-step
  • Lots of quizzes and exercises, so you can remember what you learn and see your progress!

Click here to see what Test Your Conjugation is all about!

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you over there!

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Allez, salut 🙂

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Although “Je suis malade” isn’t my favorite of hers, je t’aime Lara Fabian. (Problematically, my favorite is her duet in Italian, “La Solitudine,” with its author, singer Laura Pausini.) And I like Jean-Jacques Goldman, too, especially his appearance in “J’irais au bout de mes reves” with Celine, Garou, Pascal Obispo and Gerald Palmas. Listening/watching videos with French songs, especially the ones with lyrics, is a great way to pick up a lot of French, both vocabulary as well as “street” French/slang syntax. Did I mention j’adore Lara Fabian? Kareen Antonn? Helen Segara? Mirielle Mathieu? Nicole Croisille? Geraldine Lapere? C’est vrai.

  • Tres bon lecon. Merci beaucoup. Pourquoi vous n’incluez pas les verbes en re dans la liste des groupes importants pour savoir?

    • Hi Carolann! Bonne question !

      Réponse courte : Les verbes en -re ne sont pas un groupe, ils sont très différents les uns des autres.

      Réponse longue : Le troisième groupe (les verbes irréguliers) est parfois appelé “les verbes en -re”, mais c’est une simplification. “Tenir”, “Savoir”, “Aller”… sont aussi des verbes du troisième groupe !
      Mais c’est vrai, il y a beaucoup de verbes en -re dans le troisième groupe. Le problème, c’est qu’ils se conjuguent différemment.

      La conjugaison de “Dire” est très différente de celle de “Prendre,” par exemple. Donc il faut apprendre les verbes un par un… Et c’est là que tu peux perdre ta motivation, parce qu’il y a beaucoup de verbes !

      Sur le long terme, évidemment, il faut les apprendre… Mais tu peux commencer par ces 7 verbes courants pour pouvoir parler rapidement 🙂

      (- Arthur, auteur pour Comme une Française)

  • Dear Geraldine, I am interested in your course but Id o not know if I fit the course. How basic or advanced is it?

  • In the past few weeks , I have loved the fragments from film/music. Moreover they have not distracted but just made it more interesting and easier to recall.

  • @Steven Peel “ Bon allez” doesn’t it mean « come on, let’s go »
    À bientôt = see you soon
    quand même = Anyway

    • That is only used when you know someone well. For strangers it would be considered rude. It is literally “Good!! Now go!! ”
      Friends would say it when wishing to end a conversation.
      Quand même means lots of things not just anyway!!

  • Hi Geraldine – this is the best, most concise lesson you’ve done. And the pdf is superb. Many thanks for all you’ve done. It is very impressive. Best wishes, John

  • C’était si joli et poétique ce que vous avez écrit au sujet des ondes y les Alpes. Vous êtes super gentille! De plus, j’avais déjà appris beaucoup d’aspects de la langue française quotidienne dont je ne savais rien avant de vous connaître.
    Mil mercis! Que vous me corrige, s’il vous plaît.

  • Having lived in France for 15 years, and speaking the language reasonably, I could never understand fully why someone preparing to leave says something like “Bon, aller, a bientot” ! my spelling of “aller” may be incorrect, as I have never seen it written. Another expression I know and use, but it is difficult for those English speakers listening and translating later, is “quand meme ” which you know well is pronounced “co-meme” ! A Frenchman once told me following a conversation that I lived in the Sarthe (correct) and another asked me if I came from Alsace !! Can you clue me in to the “bon aller” expression ?

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