What is the value of Present tense in French ?

French conjugation and tenses might be tricky. But once you know how to conjugate a tense the good thing is you can use it not only to express the tense itself but for a lot of ideas. That is so useful to know and I will tell you here the different values of Present tense in French. Let’s first review how to conjugate the Present tense in French.

Rule

Present tense in French is made from the verb stem which we add endings:

  • For the 1st group verbs ending in -ER: e, es, e, ons, ez, ent
  • For the 2nd group verbs ending in -IR (eg. finir): s, s, t, ssont, ssez, ssent
  • For the 3rd group verbs ending in -IR (eg. venir), -OIR, -RE:
    we take the verb stem and we add the following endings: s/x, s/x, t, ons, ez, ent
  • For the 3rd group verbs ending in -RE (eg. prendre, vaincre, rompre):
    we take the verb stem and we add the following endings: s, s, d/t/c, ons, ez, ent
  • For the 3rd group verbs ending in -IR (eg. offrir):
    we take the verb stem and we add the following endings: e, es, e, ons, ez, ent

Examples:

Values of Present tense in French

Present indicative is used to:

  • show an action is in process (il pleut)
  • set the scene, describe and show someone’s features (Rimbaud est un grand poète français
  • show that an action is still continuing (elle travaille depuis l’âge de 16 ans)
  • highlight on someone’s habits (elle chante toujours sous la douche)
  • say a common truth, a maxim (quatre et quatre font huit)
  • show a one-time quick spontaneous action, which is by definition limited (je pose mon stylo)
  • express a near future (ne quittez pas la classe, le professeur arrive)
  • express a close past (j’arrive tout juste de l’aéroport)
  • replace a passé simple (historical present) (Louis XIV prend le pouvoir en 1661)
  • tell a past story (narrative present) (il était minuit, tout dormait. Soudain un cri horrible réveille tout le voisinage)
  • replace conditional (si tu grimpes au sommet du Mont Blanc…)
  • replace imperative (je vous laisse seul, mais vous faites attention à votre petit frère)

I hope this will help you to use the Present tense in different situations!

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