[ French grammar index ]
[ Irregular verb patterns ]
The -re verb pattern
Around 50 French verbs fall into a pattern commonly called the "regular -re verb"
pattern in English-speaking material. (In most French-speaking material, these verbs are usually classified
simply as a variant of "group 3" verbs.) Verbs in this pàttern have a characteristic [d]
sound in all places except the singular present tense forms, and have d
throughout their spelling. They all have past participles ending in -u1.
With possible exceptions mentioned below, all of these verbs in fact end in -dre,
and more specifically have three types of ending:
|-endre and -andre
||prendre and its compounds.
attendre to wait, await|
défendre to prohibit; to defend
descendre to go/come down
dépendre (de) to depend (on)
entendre to hear
répandre to spread
vendre to sell
correspondre to correspond
fondre to melt
pondre to lay
répondre to reply, respond
mordre to bite
tordre to twist
The verbs in these three subcategories do not behave any differently,
but having one of these specific endings is what marks a verb as categorically
following the "regular -re" pattern.
Verbs ending in -dre but with other vowels before this
ending (such as craindre or absoudre)
don't fall into this pattern.
The characteristic consonant, d, is pronounced as expected
in plural present tense forms and in all other forms of the verb. Unusually, the
characteristic consonant is also written, but not pronounced, in the present
tense singular forms.
In the following information, we use the example verb vendre ("to sell").
- Singular forms:
- In pronunciation, the singular forms all sound like the
infinitive minus the final -dre. So vendre [vɑ̃dʁ]
gives the singular form [vɑ̃]. In the spelling, the group 3 endings
(-s, -s, -(t))
are added to the stem (infinitive minus final syllable) but the
d is retained. This gives je/tu vends but
because of the -d, no final -t is added to
- Plural forms
- As expected, the plural forms consist of
stem plus characteristic consonant plus the endings -ons, -ez,
-ent (the plural endings that generally apply to any tense of any French verb).
This means that these endings are added to vend-, giving nous vendons, vous vendez, ils vendent.
This information is summarised in the following table:
|Singular/ plural||Stem form||Stem form (spelling)||Ending (spelling)||Form (spelling)||Stem form (pronunc.)||Ending (pronunc.)||Form (pronunc.)|
|Singular||Infinitive mins -dre, but d retained in spelling.||vend-||-s|
|Plural||Infinitive minus -re (the characteristic consonant d is retained.)||vend-||-ons|
The past participle is formed by replacing -re of the infinitive with -u. For vendre, this gives vendu.
Other tenses are formed as for any other verb:
(See note 1 for the past historic form.)
- The imperfect takes the stem vend- of the nous form, giving je vendais etc.
- In the future tense, the future stem is the infinitive minus final -e, giving je vendrai etc.
- The conditional is the future but with imperfect endings, giving je vendrais etc.
- The subjunctive takes the stem of the ils present tense form (i.e.
it includes the characteristic consonant, vend-) and adds the
usual subjunctive endings, giving je vende etc.
Verbs not ending in -dre that follow this pattern?
If you accept that the characteristic consonant doesn't have to be d,
then a couple of other verbs fall into essentially the same pattern as vendre:
- rompre (to break)
- If we take the p of the infinitive to be the characteristic consonant,
this verb has the same pattern as vendre etc,
except that in the spelling, the p
is maintained in (il) rompt.
The derivative verbs corrompre
(to bribe) and interrompre (to interrupt) follow the same
- vaincre (to defeat)
- If we take the c [k] of the infinitive to be the characteristic consonant, this verb has the same pattern as vendre etc.
In the spelling, -t is omitted from il vainc, just
as for vendre etc. A slight complication occurs in the plural present
tense forms (and derived forms),
where c changes to qu in the spelling,
including the nous form:
present nous vainquons, vous vainquez,
imperfect il vainquait,
subjunctive (que) je vainque etc.
The more common verb convaincre (to convince) also follows
- foutre (to do, chuck, shove, stick...)
- In very informal speech, this is a common pejorative verb meaning to do
(qu'est-ce que tu fous? = what the hell are you doing?)
or to put, close to English chuck, stick, sling, shove etc (je te foutrai dehors = I'll chuck you out). Taking t to be the
characteristic consonant, it essentially behaves as vendre, with
present tense forms je/tu fous, il fout and past participle
1. Another salient feature is that they have past historic forms ending in -is etc, whereas most other verbs with past participles ending in -u have
past historic forms -us etc.
2. Probably because this is a very informal, often impolite-sounding verb,
the past historic is rare (and only used with a humorous or ironic connotation?).
Both je foutus and je foutis are found on the Internet.
This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.