Without verbs, it is impossible to communicate. Verbs are at the centre of the sentence and convey the action, the occurrence or the state of being of your subject. When learning French, verbs are key, and often one of the toughest things to learn. Without a thorough understanding of verbs, it can be challenging to progress in the language. I put together 50 essential verbs to know when learning French, how to use them, and real life examples natives would use in their daily life.

Teacher tip!: I purposely put the negative ne in brackets because it is rarely used in spoken French. If you want to sound more natural, don’t hesitate to drop the ne in negative sentences. But! Do not forget it in written French, as it technically makes the language grammatically wrong.

friends or colleagues working together in front of a library
Source: Unsplash

Verbs Used to Create Other Tenses or Ideas

1. Être – to be – passé composé, continuous tense

Different tense variations être is used for:

Passé composé with movement verbs and pronominal verbs (the ones with se in front)

Hier, je suis allée au resto avec mes amis. C'était super bon! 
Yesterday, I went to the restaurant with my friends. It was so tasty!

Être is also used to express the continuous tense. There is no equivalent to the English continuous tense, however we use être + en train de + verbe à l’infinitif

Désolée, je ne peux pas aller au ciné aujourd'hui, je suis en train de travailler. 
Sorry, I can't go to the cinema today, I'm working.

2. Avoir – to have – passé composé

I mentioned the use of être to conjugate the passé composé. Well, if a verb doesn’t conjugate with être, it will conjugate with avoir, making the verb just as important.

Mon ami et moi, on a essayé un nouveau restau ce week-end. L'endroit était joli mais on n'a pas aimé les plats.
My friend and I tried a new restaurant this weekend. The place was pretty but we didn't like the food.

3. Falloir – have to, must

A common English expression is “I have to” followed by a verb to express the necessity of doing something. You might wonder how to express that idea in French. Spoiler alert, we do not say J’ai de which simply means “I have some”. Instead, we use falloir, a verb that only conjugates in the third person il/elle/on.

Pour ouvrir un compte, il faut que t'ailles à la banque avec tous tes documents et ils t'aideront.
To open an account, you have to go to the bank with all your documents and they will help you. 

Warning! Il faut que is always followed by the subjonctif, a complicated mood for many learners, especially English speakers.

Teacher tip! If you haven’t learned how to use the subjcontive, or you are unsure of its conjugations, simply take out de que, and add a non-conjugated verb afterwards instead. Because there is no pronoun in this instance, it is better to create an impersonal sentence around it.

Pour ouvrir un compte, il faut aller à banque avec tous ses documents. 
Literal translation: To open an account, one must go to the bank with all their documents.

You can also use falloir in the past to express you had to do something (usually used when you didn’t actually do it)

Il fallait que ma fille aille chez le dentiste hier, mais elle avait tellement peur qu'elle a commencé à pleurer!
My daughter had to go to the dentist yesterday, but she was so scared she started crying!

4. Aller – to go – futur proche

If you have been learning French for some time, your teacher has probably taught you the future tense, futur simple. However, here is the trick: French people rarely use the future tense. Instead, we usually conjugate in the future when we know we will do something some time in the future, but we don’t have a plan for it yet, it is still in the far future.

Teacher tip: Use aller instead! Think of it as “I’m going to” instead of “I will”. It is likely that you use the former more than the latter, the same applies to French.

Tu vas voir Avatar 2, toi? J'aimerais bien y aller mais j'ai entendu qu'il n'était pas si bien que ça.
Translation: Are you going to watch Avatar 2? I would like to go but I've heard it's not that good.

5. Venir – to come

One of the most commonly used words in English is “just”. It is very versatile when it comes to meanings. In French, however, we don’t use “juste” just as much (you see what I mean?).

Je viens de voir ton petit frère à la salle de sport, il a grandi, dis donc!
I just saw your younger brother at the gym, he's grown, heh!

Verbs Used in Many Expressions and Phrasal Verbs

2. Avoir (again – it’s so important it needs to be written twice)

avoir besoin de – need, to have to

On(n)'a plus rien à manger à la maison, tu peux passer au supermarché après le travail s'il te plait?
W don't have anything to eat left at home, can you pass by the supermarket after work please? 

avoir faim – to be hungry (not je suis faim!!)

Mon chat a toujours faim, il va finir comme une boule.
My cat is always hungry, it's going to end up looking like a ball.

avoir peur – to be scared

Mes deux enfants ont peur du noir... On doit laisser la lumière allumée toute la nuit!
My two children are scared of the dark... We have to leave the light on the whole night!

avoir soif – to be thirsty

T(u n)'as pas soif après cette course?
Aren't thirsty after this race?

Il y a du vent – it’s windy

L'hiver, il y a tellement de vent que j'ai peur de m'envoler!
In winter, it's so windy that I'm scared of flying away.

avoir l’air de – to look like

Ça va les enfants? Vous avez l'air malade!
Are you okay children? You look like you're sick.

6. Plaire – to be enjoyable, to be pleasant

Teacher tip: With plaire, the subject is the think that is liked or enjoyed, not the person that likes or enjoys it.
Tu peux me recommender quelques livres qui te plaisent?
Can you recommend me a few books you like?
Laure, je crois qu'il me plaît. Je (ne) sais pas quoi faire. 
Laure, I think I like him. I don't know what to do.




Book a $3 French Class!



7. Prendre – to take

Tu prends souvent le train? 
Do you often take the train?
Prends un manteau avec toi, il fait un peu froid!
Take a jacket, it's chilly. 

8. Mettre – to put

Tu sais où j'ai mis mes clés?
Do you know where I put my keys?

9. Donner – to give

donner quelque chose à quelqu’un – to give something to someone

Tous les ans, je donne des fleurs à ma mère pour son anniversaire.
Every year, I give flowers to my mother for her birthday. 

Teacher tip: You can replace donner with offrir in this sentence. The meaning is the same.

donner sur – to face

Cette chambre donne sur la mer, c'est merveilleux!
This room faces the sea, it's wonderful!

10. Finir – to finish, to end

Finis tes devoirs! Ou je vais me facher!
Finish your homework or I'll get angry!

finir par – to end up

Mon chat a toujours faim, il va finir comme une boule.
My cat is always hungry,it's going to end up looking like a ball.

finir avec – to end up with

À la fin de Friends, Ross finit avec Rachel. Je m'y attendais!
At the end of Friend, Ross ends up with Rachel. I was expecting it!

11. Rendre – to give back, to return

Rendre visite à – to visit (someone)

Ma grand-mère veut que je lui rende visite ce week-end.
My grandma wants me to visit her this weekend.

Rendre la monnaie – to give the change

Pardon! J'ai oublié de vous rendre la monnaie!
Sorry! I forgot to give you your change. 

se rendre compte – to realise

Quand je me suis rendue compte que j'avais oublié mon porte-feuilles, j'étais déjà en ville.
When I realised I had forgotten my wallet, I was already in town.

12. Faire – to do

Tu fais quoi?
What are you doing?

Faire la vaisselle – To do the dishes

Il y a de la vaisselle à faire, mais j(e n)'ai pas du tout envie.
There are dishes to do, but I really don't feel like it.

Faire la lessive – To do laundry

Faire la lessive prend tellement longtemps! 
Doing laundry takes so long!

Faire semblant – To pretend

Arrête de faire semblant! Je sais que tu mens!
Stop pretending! I know you're lying!

Il fait chaud/froid – It’s cold/it’s hot

13. Dire – to say, to tell

dire à – to tell to

Marie a dit à son copain qu'on va au restau dimanche?
Has Marie told her boyfriend that we're going to the restaurant on Sunday?

on dirait que – it looks like

On dirait qu'il va pleuvoir.
It looks like it's going to rain.

14. Croire – to believe

croire en – to believe in (someone)

Je crois en toi! Tu vas y arriver!
I believe in you! You're going to do it!


croire à – to believe in (something)

Tu crois aux fantômes? 
Do you believe in ghosts?

C’est à croire que – it seems like, it’s almost like

C'est à croire que personne n'écoute ce que je te dis.
It seems like/it's almost like no one listens to what I say.

(il ne) Faut pas croire! – It should not be assumed, we shouldn’t assume.

(Il ne) Faut pas croire qu'elle est paresseuse, elle (n')aime juste pas les mêmes choses que nous.
Don't assume she's lazy, she just doesn't like the same things we do.

15. Passer – to pass, to hand

Passe-moi l'eau!
Hand me the water!

passer par – to pass by

Marie va être en retard, elle doit passer par la banque.
Marie is going to be late, she has to stop by the bank.

16. Trouver – to find

Je (ne) trouve pas mon porte-feuilles! Tu sais où il est?
I can't find my wallet. Do you know where it is?
Je trouve ça bizarre
I find it strange.

17. Laisser – to let, to leave

Laisse-moi voir!
Let me see!

Il fait chaud, vous pouvez laisser vos manteaux dans la voiture.
It's hot, you can leave your coats in the car.

18. Arrêter – to stop

Arrêter de – to stop 

Il n'arrête pas de pleuvoir.
It doesn't stop raining.

19. Sortir – to leave, to exit, to go out

sortir de – to leave, to exit

Elle sort de chez elle vers huit (8) heures tous les matins.
She leaves the house around 8 every morning.

sortir avec – to go out with

Tu savais que Jean sortait avec Marie? J(e n')y croyais pas!
Did you know Jean is going out with Marie? I couldn't believe it!

20. Sentir – to feel

Docteur, je ne me sens pas très bien.
Doctor, I don't feel so well.

21. Tenir – to hold, to care about

Tu peux tenir mon sac pendant deux secondes s'il te plait?
Can you hold my bag for two seconds please?

tenir à – to care about

Elle tiens à toi mais ce n'est pas le bon moment.
She cares about you but it's not the right time.

22. Marcher – to walk, to work

Il adore marcher, marcher, marcher partout. Et moi alors? Je suis fatiguée!
He loves to walk, walk, walk everywhere. What about me? I'm tired!
Mon ordi (ne) marche plus, tu peux m'aider? 
My computer is not working anymore, could you help me?
Ça marche!
Okay, cool.

23. Valloir – to be worth

Cette bague vaut 15,000 (quinze mille) euros.
This ring is worth 15,000 euros.

Il vaut mieux – it’s better to

Il vaut mieux rentrer à la maison, il est tard.
It's better for us to go home, it's late.

24. Servir – to serve, to be used for 

Tu peux me servir de l'eau s'il te plait? J'ai soif.
Can you serve me some water please? I'm thirsty.

servir à – to be used for

Un téléphone sert à téléphoner, pourquoi est-ce qu'il peut faire tellement de choses maintenant?
Phones are for calling, why can they do so many things now?

25. Manquer – to miss, to lack

Tu me manques! 
I miss you.
Je crois qu'elle manque de courage.
I think she lacks courage.

Other Useful Verbs

26. Penser – to think

Je pense tout le temps à toi!
I think about you all the time!
Il pense qu'il ne sera pas là.
He thinks he won't be here. 

27. Aimer – to like, to love

Avant, j'aimais la foot, mais maintenant je préfère le basket. 
I used to like football, but now, I prefer basketball.

28. Parler – to speak, to talk

Tais toi! Tu parles tout le temps!
Sh*t up! You're always talking!

29. Pouvoir – can, to be able to

Tu peux venir ici?
Can you come here?

30. Savoir – to know (how to do something)

Teacher tip! savoir is always followed by a verb or a phrase.

Ils (ne) savent pas nager.
They don't know how to swim.

31. Porter – to wear

Je (ne) savais pas que tu portais des lunettes!
I didn't know you wore glasses!

32. Voir – to see

Je (ne) vois rien!
I can't see anything!
Tu vois?! Je le savais!
You see?! I knew it!

33. Devoir – must, to have to

Ils ont mal au ventre, ils ont dû manger quelque chose de périmé.
Their belly hurts, they must have eaten something that had gone bad.

Je vais être un peu en retard, je dois passer au supermarché avant.
I'm going to be a bit late, I have to stop by the supermarket first. 

34. Suivre – to follow

Follow me.

35. Attendre – to wait

J'en ai marre d'attendre! Tu vas prendre longtemps?
I'm sick of waiting! Are you going to be long?

36. Rester – to stay 

Cet enfant reste tout le temps à maison! Je (ne) sais pas quoi faire.
This child is always at home! I don't know what to do.

37. Chercher – to look for, to search

Excusez-moi, je cherche la mairie, vous pouvez m'aider?
Excuse me, I'm looking for the town hall, could you help me?

38. Entendre – to hear

Tu entends cette musique? Ça vient d'où?
Do you hear this music? Where is it coming from?

39. Entrer / Rentrer – to enter

On rentre à la maison? 
Are we going home? 

40. Essayer – to try

Ça fait trois ans que j'essaie d'apprendre le français, mais c'est trop dur!
I have been trying to learn French for three years, but it's too hard!

41. Aider – to help

Je vais aider mon ami à déménager ce week-end, je (ne) peux pas venir avec toi, désolé.
I'm going to help my friend move this weekend, I can't come with you, sorry.

42. Demander – to ask

Tu devrais lui demander son opinion.
You should ask him for his opinion.

se demander – to wonder

Je me demande ce à quoi il pense.
I wonder what he's thinking about.

43. Oublier – to forget

On a un contrôle aujourd'hui et j'ai tout oublié.
We have a test today and I forgot everything.

44. Se Rappeler – to remember

Il s'appelle comment déjà? Je ne m'en rappelle pas.
What's his name again? I don't remember it.

45. Travailler – to work

C'est déjà lundi, allez, il faut qu'on travaille.
It's already Monday, come on, we have to work.

46. Devenir – to become

Petit à petit, mon cousin devient adulte. Le temps passe vite. 
Little by little, my cousin is becoming an adult. Time flies.

47. Changer – to change

Je veux changer de coupe de cheveux, ça fait tellement longtemps.
I want to change my haircut, it's been so long.

48. Montrer – to show

montrer quelque chose à quelqu’un – showing something to someone

Il faut que je te montre cette vidéo! C'est super drôle!
I have to show you this video! It's hilarious!

49. Emmener – to bring

Pour ma fête ce samedi, vous pouvez emmener un dessert?
Can you guys bring a dessert to my party this Saturday?

50. Raconter – to tell (a story)

Qu'est-ce que tu racontes?
What are you saying?

Mon mari raconte une histoire à notre fils tous les soirs.
My husband tells a story to our son every night.




Book a $3 French Class!




Scroll to Top