The present tense of regular -er verbs
The vast majority of French verbs end in -er in the infinitive and are classed as regular -er verbs. There are a few spelling and pronunciation variations to consider, but basically every verb ending in -er conforms to the pattern outlined below. This pattern is also productive: that is, newly coined verbs also follow this pattern.
Written form of the present tense
To form the present tense of an -er verb, replace the final -er with the appropriate ending from the list below:
For any verb, there is always a single 'he/she/it' form used for il, elle and on; and there is always a single 'they' form used for both masculine (ils) and feminine (elles) subjects.
So that means that if the subject is a singular noun (phrase) like le garçon, la femme or Jacques, you need the ils/elles form. If the subject is a plural noun (phrase) like les femmes, you need the plural ils/elles form.
If you want to practise forming the present tense of different verbs, then click here. If you'd like to see a couple more examples first, then read on to the next section.
Practice the present tense
If you think you've got the information above, then click here to practise forming the present tense.
Another way of looking at things...
It's usual to "visualise" and remember these verb forms in table form, as above. Another way of looking at things is in terms of a number of 'rules':
So another way of summing up the contents of the above table is:
The je and il forms have -er replaced with -e. The other forms follow on from this, applying the 'normal' endings that apply to any tense.
Spoken form of the present tense
The written forms above actually make things look more complicated than they really are. When written down, there are five different forms of the present tense. But the forms ending in -e, -es and -ent all sound the same, and to all intents and purposes aren't pronounced2. The endings -ons and -ez are pronounced, but nous is not used much in everyday speech, being largely replaced by on. So the situation as far as the spoken language is concerned looks much simpler:
For most tenses and for most verbs (regular or irregular), it is common for all the singular forms (je, tu and il/elle forms) to sound the same.
-er verbs with spelling complications
On the next page, we consider some -er verbs that have minor spelling (and occasionally pronunciation) complications.