Conjugating French verbs in a workbook or letter is one thing, but remembering individual verb conjugations when you're speaking is another matter entirely. Here are some tips to help you get better at conjugating French verbs.
Learn the Conjugations
Before you can even start to worry about speaking French with correctly conjugated verbs, you have to learn the conjugations. There are hundreds of pages on this site that can help you learn how to conjugate French verbs:
Present tense conjugations
- lessons to help you learn the conjugation patterns for regular verbs, reflexive verbs, stem-changing verbs, impersonal verbs, and compound tenses
Top 10 French verbs
- lessons on être
, and the next eight most common French verbs
- table of all the French verb tenses and moods, with links to conjugation lessons
- 1,200 verbs conjugated into the simple tenses
Once you've learned the conjugations, you need to practice them. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to "grab" the right conjugation during spontaneous discussion. Some of these activities might seem boring or silly, but the point is simply to get you used to seeing, hearing, and speaking the conjugations - here are some ideas:
Say them out loud
When you come across verbs while reading a book, newspaper, or French lesson, say the subject and verb out loud. Reading conjugations is good, but saying them out loud is even better, because it gives you practice both speaking and listening to the conjugation.
Write them out
Spend 10 to 15 minutes every day conjugating verbs along with the appropriate subject pronouns
. You can practice writing either the conjugations for several different tenses/moods of a single verb, or all of the, for example, imperfect conjugations for several verbs. After you write them out, say them out loud. Then write them again, say them again, and repeat 5 or 10 times. When you do this, you'll see the conjugations, feel what it's like to say them, and hear them, all of which will help you the next time you are actually speaking French.
Conjugations for everyone
Pick up a newspaper or book and look for a verb conjugation. Say it out loud, then reconjugate the verb for all the other grammatical persons. So if you see il est
(he is), you'll write and/or speak all of the present tense conjugations for être
. When you're done, look for another verb and do the same thing.
Change the tense
This is similar to the above, but this time you reconjugate the verb into other tenses you want to practice. For example, if you see the third person singular present tense il est
, change it to il a été
(passé composé), il était
(imperfect), and il sera
(future). Write and/or speak these new conjugations, then look for another verb.
Set some conjugations to a simple tune, like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," and sing it in the shower, in your car on the way to work/school, or while washing the dishes.
Make a set of flashcards
for the verbs you have the most trouble with by writing a subject pronoun and the infinitive on one side and the correct conjugation on the other. Then test yourself by looking at the first side and saying the subject and its conjugation out loud, or by looking at the conjugation and deciding which subject pronoun(s) it's conjugated for. You can also use a flashcard program like Before You Know It
See how well you know your conjugations by taking one of my French verb quizzes
Another way to practice conjugations is with specialized French verb workbooks, like these:
French Verb Drills
by R de Roussy de Sales
French Verb Workbook
by Jeffrey T Chamberlain PhD, Lara Finklea
The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
by David M Stillman, Ronni L Gordon
Improve your French
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* Improve your French verb conjugations
* Improve your French vocabulary