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French -IER Verbs

How to conjugate -IER verbs in French


French verbs that end in -ier are conjugated according to the same rules as regular -er verbs, but there is a letter combination in certain conjugations that makes -ier verbs seem strange.

In the present tense, there is potential for confusion. The present tense stem of -ier verbs ends in -i; for example, the stem of étudier is étudi. This means that the nous and vous forms of -ier verbs end in -ions and -iez, which leads some students to think, mistakenly, that they are looking at an imperfect conjugation:

   tu étudies
   il étudie
   nous étudions
   vous étudiez
   ils étudient

The imperfect and subjunctive are where the real strangeness occurs. Because the stem ends in i and the nous and vous endings for the imperfect and subjunctive begin with i, -ier verbs have ii (two i's in a row) in those conjugations:

   tu étudiais
   il étudiait
   nous étudiions
   vous étudiiez
   ils étudiaient

   tu étudies
   il étudie
   nous étudiions
   vous étudiiez
   ils étudient

Not only does the double i look strange, but it is pronounced as well. The i in étudiez is pronounced as a semi-vowel that sounds like a y (written [j] in IPA), while ii in étudiiez is the i sound followed by the semi-vowel: [ij]. Listen to the difference:

   étudiez [e ty dje]

   étudiiez [e ty di je]

In sum, while -ier verbs are conjugated just like regular -er verbs, they can look strange, so you may need to make a special effort to be able to conjugate them and recognize their conjugations. Go on to page 2 for a list of common -ier verbs.

French -IER verb conjugations

To conjugate an -IER verb in the present tense, remove -er and then add the appropriate endings. For example, here are the present tense conjugations for the -IER verbs copier (to copy), marier (to marry), and skier (to ski):
PronounEndingcopier > copi-marier > mari-skier > ski-   
 je -ecopiemarieskie  
 tu -escopiesmariesskies  
 il -ecopiemarieskie  
 nous -onscopionsmarionsskions  
 vous -ezcopiezmariezskiez  
 ils -entcopientmarientskient  
-IER verbs share conjugation patterns in all tenses and moods. Click the links above to see these three verbs conjugated into all of the simple tenses.
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