French Grammar

Twelve vital French irregular verbs

The essential irregular French verbs

Fortunately or unfortunately, the most common verbs in French (as in English!) are also the most irregular ones, the ones we have to use all to time. This page and linked pages provide essential details of the main groups of French irregular verbs, and details about the most important irregular verbs that do not fall into any group, but have their own individual conjugation pattern.
   Yet in spite of the large number (several hundreds) of irregular verbs in French, and their variety, most follow similar basic rules of conjugation. The "irregular" forms are mostly in the present tense and the perfect or passé composé tenses. Really "odd" forms, such as the past participle of vivre, which is vécu, are few and far between. In addition, most of them are quite common, so learners (including French students) become quickly familiar with them.

1. The five fundamental irregular verbs

These auxiliary and modal verbs are dealt with individually or on other pages.

2. Seven more very common irregular verbs

Most of the other very common verbs in French are also irregular. Each one has to be learned individually ! However the consolation is that generally speaking it is only the present tense of these verbs that is highly irregular. Other tenses are conjugated regularly on the basis of the form found in the first person singular. Thus for each verb, you will find the full present tense, plus the first person singular of other tenses. Other tense forms are derived normally from the tenses indicated

Faire - to do or to make

Present tense: SingularPlural
1stJe faisNous faisons
2ndTu faisVous faites
3rdIl faitIls font
Other tenses Future: Je ferai. Preterite: Je fis. Perfect: J'ai fait. Imperfect: Je faisais

Dire - to say.

Present tense: SingularPlural
1stJe disNous disons
2ndTu disVous dites
3rdIl ditIls disent
Other tenses Future: Je dirai Preterite: Je dis. Perfect: J'ai dit. Imperfect: Je disais

Savoir - to know

Present tense: SingularPlural
1stJe saisNous savons
2ndTu saisVous savez
3rdIl saitIls savent

Other tenses Future: Je saurai. Preterite: Je sus. Perfect: J'ai su. Imperfect: Je savais
Note also Present subjunctive: que je sache

Aller - to go

Present tense: SingularPlural
1stJe vaisNous allons
2ndTu vasVous allez
3rdIl vaIls vont
Other tenses Future: J'irai. Preterite: J'allai. Perfect: Je suis allé. Imperfect: J'allais

Venir - to come

Present tense: SingularPlural
1stJe viensNous venons
2ndTu viensVous venez
3rdIl vientIls viennent
Other tenses Future: Je viendrai. Preterite: Je vins. Perfect: Je suis venu. Imperfect: Je venais

Voir - to see

Present tense: SingularPlural
1stJe voisNous voyons
2ndTu voisVous voyez
3rdIl voitIls voient

Other tenses Future: Je verrai. Preterite: Je vis. Perfect: J'ai vu. Imperfect: Je voyais

Falloir- to have to, to be necessary to

Note: this is a "defective" verb, and is found only in the third person singular
Present tense: Il faut
Other tenses Future: Il faudra. Preterite: Il fallut. Perfect: Il a fallu. Imperfect: Il fallait

Some examples
  • Qu'est-ce que vous faites?
  • Je sais qu'ils vont arriver demain
  • Je dis que ce fromage est bon. Que dites-vous ?
  • A trois heures, il alla au palais.
  • Il faut que tu saches avec qui tu travailleras !
  • Mes amis sont venus avec moi au cinéma.
  • J'ai vu un cheval et trois chats.
  • Il avait fallu attendre l'arrivée du dernier train avant de rentrer à la maison

► Continue to Irregular verbs 2: Irregular verbs ending in -re
► Continue to Irregular verbs 3: Irregular verbs ending in -er-ir
►Return to French grammar index