French Grammar Guide for non-francophones

Subject pronouns (e.g.: je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles)

Questions about subject pronouns

Q: Why is it je l'ai fait pour toi and NOT je l'ai fait pour tu?

Remember, subject pronouns can never appear after prepositions (like de, pour, avec, etc.). Some apparent exceptions to this rule are nous, vous and elle which also function as independent pronouns.

Q: Why is it c'est lui and NOT c'est il?

Remember, subject pronouns do not appear after the verb être. Some apparent exceptions to this rule are nous, vous and elle which also function as independent pronouns.  

 Q: Why is it je parle and NOT je parles?

For -er verbs, the je ending is always -e, that’s all there is to it! For example, je parle, je mange, je commence, etc. So, can the je form of an –er verb ever end in –s? No, not in the present tense. However, all imperfect and conditional forms of je do in fact end in –s (e.g.: je parlais, je mangeais, etc.)

Q: Why is it je prends and NOT je prend?

When the infinitive verb ends in -re, the je form of the verb does end in -s, e.g.: je vends, je prends, etc. The most common mistake with these verbs is to leave the -s off, but now you know better (and so does BonPatron!)

Q: Why is it je finis and NOT je finit

If the infinitive ends in -ir, like partir and venir, the verb always end in -s when je is the subject. For example, je pars, je viens. Make sure you do not omit the -s with this type of verb.

Q: Why is it je peux and NOT je peut

For the verbs pouvoir and vouloir, the ending for je and tu is -x, e.g.:  je peux, je veux. It is never -s or -t.

Q: Why is it je l'aime vraiment and NOT je vraiment l'aime?

Subject pronouns can't be separated from the verb. The only elements that can appear between them and the verb are other pronouns (like le, leur, etc.) or the negative form ne.

Q: Why is it tu parles and NOT tu parle?

When tu is the subject, the verb ends in either -s or -x. By far the most common ending is -s though, since it is used for all verbs except vouloir and pouvoir. For example, one writes, tu manges, tu viens and tu fais (but tu peux, and tu veux). The most common mistake is the absence of either -s or -x. If you write a final -s instead of a final -x, or vice versa, BonPatron will be there to let you know!

Q: Why is it tu finis and NOT tu finit?

Remember that for almost all verbs, the tu endings is -s.

Q: Why is it Nous aimons and NOT Nous aiment?

When the subject is nous, the verb always in -ons (with the exception of nous sommes). Make sure that you don’t use another plural ending (like -ent) when nous is the subject.

Q: Why is it ils mangent and not ils mange?

When the subject is ils, elles or any plural noun (e.g.: mes amis, les chevaux, etc.), the verb always ends in -nt. This is true of regular -er verbs (e.g.: ils commencent demain), -ir verbs (e.g.: elles partent en même temps), -re verbs (e.g.: ces enfants apprennent très vite) and irregular verbs (e.g.: ils font, elles sont, les gens savent, etc.).

Furthermore, this is true for all tenses (e.g.: ils disent, ils disaient, ils diront, ils diraient). We see then that the singular forms (like il commence) are never written the same as the plural forms, even though many of them are pronounced the same way.

Q: Why is it il faut (or je dois) and NOT je faux?

When describing something you need to do, use the expression il faut que (e.g.: Il faut que je parte demain) or je dois (e.g.: Je dois partir demain). The verb falloir is only conjugated with the pronoun il, which means "it". In other words, when you do write Il faut, it doesn't mean "he must". To say "he must", you should use the verb devoir, e.g.: Il doit partir demain ("he must leave tomorrow").

Note then that the most common English translations for Il faut are "We need to ...", "We have to" or "It is important to".

Verb conjugation:
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