The future tense in French

English forms its future tense using 'll (or will or shall): John'll be there at four; will I need to confirm?. Additionally, English has progressive forms such as will you be needing it?. French has a synthetic ("one-word") future tense form that is generally used in similar circumstances to all these English forms with will ..., 'll be ...ing, shall be ...ing etc. We'll look in more detail below at when to use the future tense. But to start with, we'll see how to form the French future tense.

How to form the future tense in French

Written form

In the written form, the future tense is generally straightforward.

  • The future tense always has endings similar to the present tense of avoir: -ai, -as, -a, -ons, -ez, -ont.
  • For the vast majority of verbs, the written form is the infinitive plus these endings.
  • Certain -er verbs have predictable spelling irregularities; a handful of verbs have totally irregular future 'stems' (but the same endings mentioned).

In other words, the future tense consists of a 'future stem', generally the same as the infinitive, plus an ending depending on the subject. Here is the verb donner with all its future tense forms:

SubjectStemEndingFormMeaning
jedonner--aije donneraiI'll give, I'll be giving
tudonner--astu donnerasyou'll give, you'll be giving
ildonner--ail donneraI'll give, I'll be giving
nousdonner--onsnous donneronswe'll give, we'll be giving
vousdonner--ezvous donnerezyou'll give, you'll be giving
ilsdonner--ontils donnerontthey'll give, they'll be giving

Similarly, finir gives je finirai etc. Verbs that end in -re remove the -e of the infinitive before adding the future tense endings: je vendrai, je mettrai, je boirai.

Irregular verbs

The examples at the end of the previous paragraph show that many otherwise irregular verbs such as boire actually have regular future tense forms. Just a handful of verbs have irregular future tense forms. The next page gives a list of French verbs with irregular future stems.

Spelling issues with 'semi-regular' -er verbs

Various semi-regular -er verbs have regular spelling and pronunciation complications in the future tense.

The spoken form

In the spoken form of -er verbs at least, the 'infinitive plus ending' does not necessarily account very well for the pronunciation of these forms. See this page on the pronunciation of the future tense in French.

When to use the future tense in French

The future tense is used in French in many cases where English would use will ... or will be ...ing. However, there are some key differences; see the usage of the future tense in French for more detais.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.