How To Avoid Confusion With French Tenses?


In modern society, where people from different parts of the world often communicate, knowledge of some languages will be a great plus. It will stand you out positively. If you don’t know how to take online courses our service will help you with them and you will become good at any subject you want. Knowledge of the second language allows you to speak to wider range of people and become involved in their culture. It’s quite interesting.

Unfortunately, some languages have some disappointing things, which can be a real border on the way to learning a language. Each language has its own sharp corners. For example, all people who learn English complain on too many tenses, however they probably didn’t hear about French where their amount is even bigger! Those who try to learn Chinese, for example, have difficulties with writing down the words, because it’s not a secret that even Chinese don’t know all those hieroglyphs. Today we will stop on French and its sharp corners and especially grammar, however we will talk about other difficulties of it too. Feel free to read also about how to learn another language.

Why confusion in French takes place at all?

The first step to avoid confusion in French grammar and French language in general is to find out, why these problems appear.

1. Problem with conjugation

First, and probably the most spread problem in French is conjugations. Each person plural and singular requires its own form of the verb. It may be okay but not for French. That’s why they decided to divide their verbs into three groups.

First group of verbs has ending or flexion -er and has its definite endings in conjugation with nouns and pronouns. Second group contains verbs, which have ending -ir. Some endings of this group don’t match those of the first group. So you think, it’s okay. Really, it seems to be not so hard. All you should do is just learn basic rules of how verbs of first or second group are conjugated. Finally, you are happy and have just finished learning these rules (six endings in general for all persons singular and plural).

Feel free to make breaks and watch interesting videos about languages in general.  Feel free to read some interesting facts about French language, for example.

When you thank French that they don’t at least distinguish different endings for he (il) or she (elle) you get to know that there is a third group of verbs. First bad thing is that these verbs have almost no rules for conjugation. It’s like English irregular verbs. However, in English we should know that verb is irregular only in past tense (perfect or non-perfect). In France no matter what tense is, you should know whether the verb is regular or not. It makes situation quite difficult. If you think that French is strange because of its huge amount of exclusions and rules, read about Spanglish – language, which is not even accepted to be a language, but it, exists anyway:

2. How to make things easier?

To make things easy you can divide third group of verbs into three ones. Some verbs have ending -mir and have definite endings of conjugation, which have some scheme. The same situation is with verbs ending on –tir and -vir. It makes situation easier.

The good idea and the only effective way is to make exercises on conjugation of verbs. Start with present tense in order not to be puzzled and make some exercises every day, so you can memorize how it all works.

Don’t despair! Of course thoughts that bilingual people who know French and English are very happy, will come to you not at once, so you can check bilingual advantages. However, exercises are a good key to solve this problem. In the next part of our article, we will single out some difficulties connected directly with tenses and ways of their solution.

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Now when you know about the most scaring thing about French: three groups of verbs one of which doesn’t undergo rules, we can continue our article and you are ready for the next scaring thing.

Confusion with tenses

The first question, which should be asked is: how many different tenses French people have? However, the second question will be: how many tenses do they really use? Answering the first question, we can say that there are fourteen tenses. Some of them are easier and some are more complex. Answering the second question, French people use about eight tenses of these fourteen, but it depends on the situation.

The main problem and ground for confusion appears, because complex tenses have two verbs in structure. One of them is auxiliary like we have in English Future tense. To learn any language you should know how to learn information faster. This article may help you:

For example: I will go to the cinema tomorrow. Here we have verb will and verb go. However if in English we have such combinations in Future and Perfect, if talk about affirmative sentence, French have seven sentences which demand auxiliary verb in certain form and main verb also in certain form. It seems to be quite difficult, isn’t it? Add here the rule of conjugation and it seems like everything will turn into a mess. It seems like French is a mess of verbs in different forms with different endings. So how to overcome this scaring moments?

How to win the struggle with tenses?

As every battle and struggle, this one should be started from small things. By small things, we mean simple tenses. First of all, we hope that you will stick to advise and learn conjugation of verbs in present. When you do it, you can proudly say that you know one French tense. Unfortunately, it won’t be so easy the whole time. French people can proudly say that no matter how mysterious Bermuda Triangle is, French language is even more mysterious, strange and puzzling.

1. Simple tenses: are they really simple?

Then it’s up to you to decide what simple tense to learn. You may start with Future or past. French have two simple past tenses: Imparfait (something like past continuous) and Passé simple (something like past simple in English). There is only one simple Future tense called Futur Simple like English (Future Simple). If you want your studying to be as easy as Future Simple ask class mentor to do exam for you and have more free time.

It’s easier to start from Future Simple, because all you should do in most cases is just add ending to the infinitive. Than it has reason to learn Imparfait, because it is not difficult. Talking about Passé Simple it seems to be a real hell even for French, because all its verbs have own endings and it’s unreal to learn all of them. Fortunately, French don’t use this tense often, it is used mainly in literature. Learn Imparfait and pay attention to endings, because they have something similar with endings of Futur Simple.

After you will finish with it, you can say that you know all simple tenses in indicative mood (phrases like I will dance etc.). Unfortunately, there exist conditional in French as it is in English and some other tricks, but we won’t disappoint you by them. Let’s better talk about complex tenses in French.

2. Why complex tenses are so complex?

There are four complex tenses in French. Passé compose, for example has something in common with English Past Perfect and expresses a short action which was finished in past. There is also another past tense called Plus-Que-Parfait. It expresses action, which happened before another action in the past. So it’s like we use Past Perfect before Past Simple in English.

However, French don’t use Passé Simple, that’s why they use Passé Compose for past actions which were not long in time and plus-que-parfait, for action which preceded Passé Composé. If you have some problems with subjects, even bigger than with French grammar, read about our online classes and you will find help and support.

It seems quite puzzling at first, however it’s not all: there are two tenses and it’s hard to find correspondence to English. They are Futur Antérieur and Passé Antérieur. They are used to indicate the action before the action expressed by Futur Simple and Imparfait or Passé Composé.

It seems to be a huge mass of verbs with different endings, which can be easily mixed up. However, stat with tenses listed primary in the list and finish with Futur Antérieur and Passé Antérieur. You may not even learn the latter tenses at all for first time and you will probably be okay with it.

The main problem of complex tenses is that they have two verbs, one of which is conjugated due to one rule, and main verb which also should be changed somehow in most cases. The only thing we can advise is to make exercises and learn sentences gradually. Start to learn one, only if you are sure that you understood previous well. You can consult an article about difference of tenses in English and French. It may help you greatly.

Can everything be even worse?

Unfortunately, yes it can. In addition to huge amount of tenses with auxiliary verbs, there exist such notions as conditionnel (conditional) and subjunctive. However, these aspects can be learnt later. For the first time you should know only simple and complex tenses (except Passé simple).

Unfortunately, there is no way to learn tenses fast. It’s quite long way and the better you learn basic tenses like present simple the better you will do with complex tenses, because as usual, complex tenses have auxiliary verb which is conjugated according to definite simple tense.

For example, Passé Composé has auxiliary verbs, which conjugated according to the present simple. Plus-que-parfait has auxiliary verbs, which should be conjugated in Imparfait. So as we see good knowledge of simple tenses will help greatly. To make process of learning more interesting, feel free to read some related articles, like essay about common cultural stereotypes.

To sum up we can say, that if you want to learn tenses in French and French in general, you should be very patient, because even those who have learnt French for two or three years can make mistakes in conjugation or in some tenses. You should just learn basic material perfectly, so then you won’t have trouble with complex one. Have a good luck, be patient and remember that mistakes are way to developing: don’t blame yourself for them.

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