Irregular Verbs

Irregular French verbs
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Verbes du troisième groupe

Native French-speaking grammarians classify verbs into three categories:

  1. Verbes du premier groupe / la première conjugaison – "regular" -er verbs
  2. Verbes du deuxième groupe / la deuxième conjugaison – regular -ir verbs
  3. Verbes du troisième groupe / verbes irréguliers – irregular verbs

I don’t like this system at all, because two of the categories are far too broad. Verbes du premier groupe includes regular -er verbs, spelling change verbs, and stem-changing verbs. Though they do take the same verb endings, I simply cannot agree that the latter are regular. And verbes du troisième groupe is enormous: it includes aller, envoyer, irregular -ir verbs, and all -re verbs – it’s just a big mishmash.

Learning French verb conjugations is all about finding patterns, and there are a lot that get lost in such huge, catch-all categories. So I find it helpful to use my own system:

Regular -er verbs   Irregular -er verbs
Regular -ir verbs   Irregular -ir verbs
Regular -re verbs   Irregular -re verbs

What do you think?

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Irregular French verbs

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3 Responses

  1. Timothy Koschmann 1 December 2018 / 7:12

    Laura, your way of breaking down the verb conjugations makes immanent sense to me. You are sorting first by morphology and then by verb-regularity. The traditional system mixes these two categorization schemes in a way that is very confusing to the beginner and demands excessive rote memorization. I tried to explain this to some friends of mine from France and they simply wouldn’t have it, but I’m with you.

  2. debora 23 September 2018 / 15:39

    I learned three categories in the ’60’s when I began my studies in Connecticut and continued in Paris at L’Institut Catholique. ER, IR, RE then irregular verbs for each of those 3 categories. Works for me.

  3. Lesley 4 August 2016 / 5:41

    Your way is the way verbs were categorised when I learnt French at school in the 60s. It worked for me and I have remembered the regular verbs to this day – and a lot of the irregular ones.