Impersonal Verbs

Impersonal French verbs
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Verbes impersonnels

Most verbs are personal: they must be conjugated for different grammatical persons, such as aller (to go): je vais (I go), tu vas (you go), etc. But some verbs are used impersonally, meaning they have only one conjugation, the third person singular. This is usually the impersonal subject pronoun il, meaning "it," but may also be an interrogative pronoun or indefinite demonstrative pronoun.

 Most impersonal verbs also have personal meanings, which may or may not be related to the impersonal meaning.

French weather verbs

        Personal meaning
Il fait beau.
  to be
It’s nice out.
  faire – to do, make
Il gèle.
  to freeze
It’s freezing.
  geler – to freeze
Il neige.
  to snow
It’s snowing.
Il pleut.
  to rain
It’s raining.

 Click any verb for the conjugation tables.

More impersonal French verbs

      Personal meaning
S’il advient que …
to happen that
If it happens that …
s’agir de
Il s’agit de grammaire.
to be a question of, have to do with
It’s a question of grammar.
  agir – to act, behave
Qu’est-ce qui est arrivé ?
to happen, to be possible
What happened?
  arriver – to arrive
il y a
Il y a deux choses à faire.
there is, there are
There are two things to do.
  avoir – to have
Il convient de le faire.
to be advisable, to be agreed
It’s advisable to do it.
  convenir – to suit
C’est une bonne idée.
it is, that is
That’s a good idea.
  être – to be
se faire
Il peut se faire que …
to be, to happen
It may be that …
  faire – to do, make
Il faut que tu comprennes.
to be necessary
You have to understand.
Il importe que tu le fasses.
to matter, to be important
It’s important that you do it.
  importer – to import
Il manque un bouton à cette chemise.
to be missing
This shirt is missing a button.
  manquer – to miss
Il paraît que tu aies raison.
to appear, seem
It appears that you are right.
  paraître – to appear
se passer
Qu’est-ce qui se passe ?
to happen
What’s happening?
  passer – to pass, to spend time
se pouvoir
Il se peut que tu aies raison.
to be possible
You might be right.
  pouvoir – can, to be able to
Il me reste peu de temps.
to have left
I have little time left.
  rester – to stay, remain
Il semble que tu aies raison.
to seem
It seems that you are right.
  sembler – to seem
Ça suffit !
to suffice, to be enough
That’s enough!
  suffire – to suffice
tenir à
Ça ne tient pas qu’à toi.
to depend on, to be up to
It doesn’t depend on you alone.
  tenir – to hold, keep
se trouver
Il se trouve que tu as raison.
to be, to happen to be
You happen to be right.
  trouver – to find
valoir le coup
Il vaut le coup que tu le lises.
to be worth it
It’s worth reading.
  valoir – to be worth
valoir mieux
Il vaut mieux que tu partes.
to be better
It’s better that you leave.
Il vient un moment quand…
to come
There comes a time when…
  venir – to come

 Impersonal imperatives

As a rule, impersonal verbs don’t have imperative forms. However, you can still give commands by using the third person imperative.

 Related lessons

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French impersonal verbs

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