Modal Verbs

Translating modal verbs into FrenchThere's no such thing as modal verbs in French, so translating them from English requires a bit of creative thinking. Usually you need a normal (conjugable) French verb in a particular tense or mood, but you can sometimes use just an adverb.

   

Omitting Auxiliary Verbs

French auxiliary verbsBy definition, compound tenses and moods require an auxiliary verb plus past participle. However, when using two or more compound conjugations with the same subject, you don't always need to include the auxiliary verb for each one.

   

Overused Verbs

Overused French verbs
If you learned French in a classroom, odds are that you overuse certain French verbs, because you were taught a somewhat generic word but not the sometimes subtle distinctions between it and its synonym. Here are 5 French verbs that are useful but often overused.

   

Passé composé vs Imparfait

Passé composé vs imparfaitThe trickiest aspect of the two most important French past tenses is that they often work together, juxtaposed not only throughout stories, but even within individual sentences. Understanding the contrasting relationship between the passé composé and imparfait is essential to communicating in French.

   

Passer – to pass, go by

Passer - French verbThe regular -er French verb passer usually means "to pass" and may require either être or avoir as its auxiliary verb in compound tenses/moods, depending on how it's used.

   

Passive Reflexive

French passive reflexiveThe passive reflexive construction is a way to avoid naming the subject of a verb's action without using the dreaded passive voice.

   

Penser – to think

Penser - to thinkThe regular -er verb penser, "to think," is ubiquitous and very useful, but can also be a little tricky when it comes to prepositions (penser à vs penser de).

   

Pouvoir – can, to be able

Pouvoir - an able French verbPouvoir is a very common irregular French verb with an unusual relationship to some of its English equivalents. It generally means "can" or "to be able" but it's a bit more complicated in certain tenses.

   

Prendre

Prendre - French verbThe irregular French verb prendre literally means "to take" but also has a number of additional meanings and is used in many idiomatic expressions.

   

Re- Prefix

French prefixThe French prefix re- can be added to hundreds of verbs to make new verbs. Depending on the first letter of the verb it's added to, re- has a few variations as well as some different meanings.

   

Reporting Verbs

French reporting verbsSometimes it's necessary for person A to tell person B what person C said. This phenomenon, known as reported speech, is often done with the help of a reporting verb. Here are the most common French reporting verbs with links to conjugation tables.

   

Savoir – to know

Savoir - French verbThe French verb savoir usually means "to know." It has irregular conjugations in just about every tense and mood, and somewhat different meanings in a couple of those.

   

Savoir vs Connaître (and Ignorer)

Savoir vs connaîtreDo you know how to say "know" in French? There are two verbs with distinct meanings, and just to keep things interesting, there are also two overlapping meanings. Confused? After you read this lesson, you'll know all you need to know.

   

Se faire – Reflexive Causative

French reflexive causative constructionThe reflexive causative uses a reflexive pronoun to indicate that the subject is acted upon, whether this action is by his choice or not. It's equivalent to "get/have something done to/for oneself."

   

Semi-Auxiliary Verbs

French semi-auxiliary verbsSemi-auxiliary verbs are used with infinitives to influence their meaning, tense, mood, or aspect. Some French semi-auxiliaries are equivalent to English modal verbs, and most of the top 10 French verbs can or must be used as semi-auxiliaries.