French Tense

Definition: French verb tenses & conjugation is discussed in the present tense, past tense, future tense, imperfect tense, imperative tense, and past perfect tense.


The French present tense, called le présent or le présent de l'indicatif, is quite similar in usage to the English present tense.

Present tense is used to express:

  1. Current actions and situations
    Nous allons au marché.
    We are going to the market.
    Je suis fatigué.
    I am tired.
  2. Habitual actions
    Il va à l'école tous les jours.
    He goes to school every day.
    Je visite des musées le samedi.
    I visit museums on Saturdays.
  3. Absolute and general truths
    La terre est ronde.
    The earth is round.
    L'éducation est importante.
    Education is important.
  4. Actions which will occur immediately
    J'arrive !
    I'll be right there!
    Il part tout de suite.
    e is leaving right away.
  5. Conditions in si clauses
    Si je peux, j'irai avec toi.
    If I can, I will go with you.


Le passé composé is the most common French past tense, often used in conjunction with the imparfait. The passé composé is used to express:

  1. An action or state of being completed in the past
    As-tu étudié ce weekend ?
    Did you study this weekend?
    Ils ont déjà mangé.
    They have already eaten.
  2. An action repeated a specific number of times in the past
    Nous avons visité Paris plusieurs fois.
    We've visited Paris several times.
    Hier, j'ai mangé cinq fois.
    I ate five times yesterday.
  3. A series of actions completed in the past
    Samedi, il a vu sa mère, a parlé au médicin et a trouvé un chat.
    Saturday he saw his mother, talked to the doctor, and found a cat.


Le futur is used for upcoming events. It is usually translated as will.
Ils mangeront sur l'avion
They will eat on the plane. J'irai au magasin demain
I will go to the store tomorrow.
After après que (after), aussitôt que (as soon as), dès que (as soon as), espérer que (to hope that), lorsque (when), quand (when), and une fois que (once), when the action of the verb is in the future, the future tense is used in French, whereas in English the present tense is used.
Je vous téléphonerai dès que je pourrai.
I'll call you as soon as I can.
Quand il arrivera, nous mangerons.
When he arrives, we will eat.

Je le ferai si j'ai le temps
I will do it if I have time.
Si j'ai le temps, je le ferai
If I have time, I will do it.

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