Spelling-Change Verbs in the Present

Spelling-Change Verbs in the Present

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Added by November 29, 2017


Learn French Spelling-Change Verbs in the Present

Welcome to this lesson on what we call « spelling-change verbs ». These are verbs that have slight irregularities in their conjugations in the present tense. They are not totally irregular, but the spelling and pronunciation varies depending on the subject they are associated with. So let’s have a look at them !

1. Conjugate French Verbs ending with E + one consonant + ER

First, let’s focus on verbs whose infinitives end with E + one consonant + ER. Here’s a list of them : ACHETER (to buy), AMENER (to bring), ÉLEVER (to raise), EMMENER (to take away), LEVER (to rise/lift), MENER (to lead), PESER (to weigh).

Here’s an example with the conjugation of the verb ACHETER. Just observe and make conclusions on the irregularities.

French spelling change verbs ACHETER
Source: Pixabay

Tu achètes
Il/elle/on achète
Nous achetons
Vous achetez
Ils/elles achètent

So, what are your conclusions ? Basically, when you conjugate a verb ending wtih E + consonant +ER, you need to add « un accent grave » on the E that is before the consonant.
Watch out, when you conjugate that verb in the NOUS or VOUS form, the irregularity does not. Apply !

2. Conjugate French Verbs ending with É + consonant + ER

Second, moving on with a second category of spelling-change verbs. We are now dealing with verbs ending with É + consonant + ER. Here’s your list : PRÉFÉRER (to prefer), CONSIDÉRER (to consider), ESPÉRER (to hope), POSSÉDER (to possess), RÉPÉTER (to repeat/rehearse).

And here’s your example now with the verb ESPÉRER.

Tu espères
Il/elle/on espère
Nous espérons
Vous espérez
Ils/elles espèrent

What’s the rule ? What’s the irregularity ? It is pretty much the same one we saw in the previous list of spelling-change verbs. The É becomes È except when conjugated in the 1st and 2nd person of the plural (meaning NOUS & VOUS).

3. Learn French verbs ending with -ELER or -ETER

Now that you’re getting the hang of it, we’re moving on with our third category of spelling-change verbs ! There are verbs ending with -ELER or -ETER. This time, you are going to have to double the last consonant except in the NOUS & VOUS forms. Here’s a list of these verbs: APPELER (to call), ÉPELER (to spell), JETER (to throw), PROJETER (to plan), RAPPELER (to call back), REJETER (to reject), RENOUVELER (to renew).

APPELER                            JETER
J’appelle                             Je jette
Tu appelles                         Tu jettes
Il/elle/on appelle                 Il/elle/on jette
Nous appelons                   Nous jetons
Vous appelez                      Vous jetez
Ils/elles appellent               Ils/elles jettent

4. Learn French Verbs ending with -GER ending verbs and also -CER ending verbs

Next, let’s have a look at -GER ending verbs and also -CER ending verbs. In order to explain the spelling change happening in the conjugations of these verbs in the present tense, I’d like to make a little parenthesis, a mini lesson of pronunciation.

The letter G followed by E, I, or Y, will be a « soft G », pronounced like the letter J : GE = JE
But the letter G + A, O, U will be a « hard G ». Example : GAGA (pronounced like the name of the singer!)

Why don’t you have a look at the conjugation of the verb VOYAGER in the present tense for a minute here?

French spelling change verb VOYAGER
Source: Pixabay

Je voyage
Tu voyages
Il/elle/on voyage
Nous voyageons
Vous voyagez
Ils/elles voyagent

The spelling irregularity happens in the NOUS form where we are going to add an E before the -ONS ending, so that we can keep the pronounciation of a « soft G ». Got it ? It’s kind of tricky to explain in writing but hopefully you get the idea !

Basically the same pronunciation logic happens with the letter C.
C + E, I, Y = « soft C », pronounced like an S (CE = SE)
C + A, O, U = « hard C », pronounced like a K (CA = KA)

Have a look at the conjugation in the present tense of the verb COMMENCER (to start).

Je commence
Tu commences
Il/elle/on commence
Nous commençons
Vous commencez
Ils/elles commencent

The spelling change once again happens in the NOUS form with the -ONS ending.

Note that if you don’t understand what I have explained here about French pronunciation, it’s not dramatic at all ! Cheer up ! You can just memorize the conjugations as they are given to you.

5. Learn French Verbs ending with -YER

Finally, let’s learn to conjugate -YER ending verbs. Spelling change alert : the Y changes into an I when you conjugate these verbs in the present tense.

French spelling change verb ENNUYER
Source: Pixabay

ENNUYER (to annoy/bore)
Tu ennuies
Il/elle/on ennuie
Nous ennuyons
Vous ennuyez
Ils/elles ennuient

Other -YER verbs include : BALAYER (to sweep), ENVOYER (to send), NETTOYER (to clean).

Wait, it’s not quite finished yet ! There are exceptions to remember in this last category of spelling change verbs ! PAYER (to pay) and ESSAYER (to try) can either keep the Y of their infinitives or turn it into an I. Let’s illustrate that to make sure it’s all clear in your mind :
JE PAIE or JE PAYE are both possible.
ILS ESSAIENT and ILS ESSAYENT are both possible too.

On that beautiful open note, I shall close this topic ! Unless you have questions… Comment away if you do !

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