What is "conjugation" in French?


If French is the first foreign language you have studied, the term "conjugation" may be new to you. Conjugation is very important in French because verbs change their form to match the subject of the sentence. For most verbs, there are six different forms you could use depending on the subject the verb is paired with! Subject pronouns are compulsory in French even if the form of the verb sometimes tells who or what you are talking about - so it is especially important to conjugate your verbs correctly.
Subject pronouns are also compulsory in French because sometimes the verb has the same pronunciation for various subjects but not the same spelling.

We conjugate verbs in English, too, but it's a little simpler. When we add -s to the third person singular form in the present tense, that is conjugation.

Here are some of the basic things you need to know about conjugation in French.
Verbs are action words (to run, to dance, to eat / courir, danser, manger).
The basic, un-conjugated form of the verb is called the infinitif. In English, the infinitive is the form that is preceded by "to." In French, it is the form that ends in --er, -ir, -oir, or -re.

When we put a verb with a subject in a sentence, we need to change it to match the subject. In English, we do this by adding an -s to the third person singular form. In French, we usually do this by removing the er/ir/oir/re ending, and replacing it with an ending to match the subject.
Example:
I run. Je cours.
You run. Tu cours.
She runs. Elle court.
We run. Nous courons.
They run. Ils courent.
We also use conjugation to express when an action occurs - in the past, present, or future. In English, we make a verb future tense by adding will before the verb. In French, we do this by using an entirely new set of endings.

Example:
I will run. Je courirai.
You will run. Tu couriras.
She will run. Elle courira.
We will run. Nous courirons.
They will run. Ils couriront.

You'll learn about how to conjugate verbs in the present tense, future tense, and many more tenses later on. But now, you at least know the basic terminology!

Related Links:
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