French verbs

Frenchverbs are a part of speech in French grammar. Each verb lexeme has a collection of finite and non-finite forms in its conjugation scheme.

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French language

Finite forms depend on grammatical tense and person/number. There are eight simple tense–aspect–mood forms, categorized into the indicative, subjunctive and imperative moods, with the conditional mood sometimes viewed as an additional category. The eight simple forms can also be categorized into four tenses (future, present, past, and future-of-the-past), or into two aspects (perfective and imperfective).

The three non-finite moods are the infinitive, past participle, and present participle.

There are compound constructions that use more than one verb. These include one for each simple tense with the addition of avoir or être as an auxiliary verb. There is also a construction which is used to distinguish passive voice from active voice.

. . . French verbs . . .

French verbs are conjugated by isolating the stem of the verb and adding an ending. In the first and second conjugation, the stem is easily identifiable from the infinitive, and remains essentially constant throughout the paradigm. For example, the stem of parler (“speak”) is parl- and the stem of finir (“finish”) is fin-. In the third group, the relationship between the infinitive form and the stem is less consistent, and several distinct stems are needed to produce all the forms in the paradigm. For example, the verb boire (“drink”) has the stems boi-, boiv-, bu-, and buv-.

The ending depends on the mood, tense, aspect, and voice of the verb, as well as on the person and number of its subject. Every conjugation exhibits some degree of syncretism, where the same (homophonous, and possibly also homographic) form is used to realize distinct combinations of grammatical features. This is most noticeable for -er verbs. For instance, the conjugated form parle can be the 1st or 3rd person singular indicative or subjunctive form of parler, or the singular familiar imperative. Furthermore, the 2nd person singular indicative and subjunctive form parles and the 3rd person plural form parlent are pronounced the same way as parle (except in liaison contexts). The prevalence of syncretism in conjugation paradigms is one functional explanation for the fact that French does not allow null subjects, unlike most of the other Romance languages.

Aside from être and avoir (considered categories unto themselves), French verbs are traditionally[1] grouped into three conjugation classes (groupes):

  • The first conjugation class consists of all verbs with infinitives ending in -er, except for the irregular verb aller (actually être and aller are suppletive verbs) and (by some accounts) the irregular verbs envoyer and renvoyer;[2] the verbs in this conjugation, which together constitute the great majority of French verbs, are all conjugated similarly, though there are a number of subclasses with minor changes arising from orthographical and phonological considerations.
  • The second conjugation class consists of all verbs with infinitives in -ir or -ïr and present participles in -issant or -ïssant, as well as the verb maudire. There are somewhat over 300 such verbs, all conjugated identically, with some minor exceptions. The -iss- or -ïss- in much of their conjugation is a reflex of the Latin inchoative infix -isc-/-esc-, but does not retain any aspectual semantics.
  • The third conjugation class consists of all other verbs: aller, arguably (r)envoyer, a number of verbs in -ir (including all verbs in -oir, which is an etymologically unrelated ending), and all verbs in -re. Nonetheless, this class is very small compared to the other two, though it does contain some of the most common verbs. This class has a few dozen subclasses, often differing substantially; indeed, this class is essentially a catch-all for verbs, besides être and avoir, that do not fit into the first two classes. There are about 370 verbs in this group, though a much smaller number are still in frequent use.

. . . French verbs . . .

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. . . French verbs . . .