Verb Conjugation Cheat Sheets

The post that receives the most hits on this and my other language blogs, is always the one that contains a picture of a verb conjugation timeline. You know the one….

I actually put this together using multiple sources in Excel, and took a screen shot. I recently discovered that I could post spreadsheets on the blog, so here is my collection…when you click it, the spreadsheet is downloaded.


I have not finished my Spanish version though, so if you do, please copy me on it. It is difficult to improve on this version though. If you are a teacher or instructor, and have an idea on how to rearrange, change, add/subtract or modify in some other way, please do so…and think about sending me a copy by making a comment. I’ll see your e-mail address on the comment and make a request. Likewise, if you make one in another language (like Portuguese), send me a copy.

Classroom Exercise – Circumlocution

Language teachers often encourage their classroom students to use the art of circumlocution, when they are are at a loss for the perfect word or sentence, in their new language. They do this by prompting their students to:

  • Use the simpler vocabulary that is already known.
  • Think of another way to get their message across.
  • Describe the concept, and those things related to the concept, like location and use.
  • Use of a synonym.
  • Use of a more general word in the word’s broader category (can’t think of apple? how about red fruit?)
  • Explain what the object is and/or what the object is not.
  • Point and use gestures, actions, and sounds.
  • If they have paper, have them draw it, and describe what they are drawing, if they can.

The process is similar to watching those game shows where one of the contestants is shown a word, and attempts to get their partner to say that word, without using the word or a variation of the word in the clues.

An inexpensive guide for French teachers can be found here:

My quick list would be…

It is found on… Il se trouve sur …
It is like…they are like C’est comme … ils sont comme
It is the opposite of… C’est à l’opposé de …
Its a place where a person [verb] Son un endroit où une personne [verbe]
It smells like… Ça sent comme…
It tastes like… Il goûte comme …
It looks like… Ça ressemble à…
It feels like… C’est comme ressentir…
It sounds like… Cela ressemble…
It’s made of… C’est fait en/de…
It is what you use for [activity]… C’est ce que vous utilisez pour [l’activité] …
It is an activity that C’est une activité qui
It is a kind of drink C’est une sorte de boisson
It is a kind of food C’est une sorte de nourriture
It is a kind of animal C’est une sorte d’animal
It is a kind of vehicle C’est une sorte de véhicule
It is a kind of building C’est une sorte de bâtiment
It is a kind of [category] C’est une sorte de [catégorie]
It’s like a [similar object] C’est comme un [objet similaire]
It’s part of a [object] Cela fait partie d’un [objet]
You use this object for [verb] Vous utilisez cet objet pour [verbe]
You do this when you are [condition or activity] Pour ce faire, lorsque vous êtes [condition ou activité]
It means that… Cela signifie que…
It is a word that is used when… C’est un mot qui est utilisé lorsque …
Its a machine that… Son une machine qui …
It is used for… Elle est utilisée pour…
It weighs a lot…It weighs a little Il pèse beaucoup … Il pèse un peu
We talked about it yesterday… Nous en avons parlé hier …
I saw one the other day… Je l’ai vu l’autre jour …
My father has one in the garage… Mon père a un dans le garage …
There is one in our [room]… Il y a un dans notre [chambre] …
I like to eat this for [meal]… J’aime manger ce pour [repas] …
You wear it on your [body part]… Vous le portez sur votre [partie du corps] …
You buy it at the [store type]… Vous l’achetez au [type de magasin] …
You take it with you when you go to the [place]… Vous le prenez avec vous quand vous allez à la [lieu] …
My friend has one and it is [color]… Mon ami a un et c’est [color] …

I created this graphic to help me reinforce my ability for circumlocution in French, and hopefully everything is spelled correctly…please tell me if anything is incorrect, as a comment.

french circumlocution

The English version would be…

french circumlocution in English

Pronunciation Sheet Updated

I updated my guide to French pronunciation, to reflect some miscellaneoous sounds that I saw on another person’s very simple Pinterest graphic. It should make some words easier, but some will always be intimidating, like these 120 (30 each):

30 Difficult Words to Pronounce in French: Part 1

30 Difficult French Words to Pronounce: Part 2

30 Difficult to Pronounce French Words: Part 3

30 Difficult to Pronounce French Words: Part 4

French Pronunciation Guide

Most of the time, I see graphics that are cute, but not something I can use over a long period of time, so I have to create my own. Here is an interesting set of four graphics that could prove useful:

Memorizing French Tenses – Review and Self-Test

If given a matrix to complete, of all eight tenses, could you recall and use the memory keys to fill in the matrix?


Translation Je Tu


Past Conditional
Passé Composé
Future Perfect


Translation Nous Vous


Past Conditional
Passé Composé
Future Perfect

For learning present tense, you should simply practice a lot. This site allows you to do just that:

Note: Answers to test follow….scroll down to see how you did (but don’t cheat)

This was my personal attempt. I focused on some standard memorization (present tense) but also worked on  knowing my mnemonic phrases and the way each mnemonic phrase visually keys everything I need to recall the conjugations. BTW, I threw in a few extra tenses:

Future (futur simple) – The future will be infinity and bey-on-d!


Past Future/Future Perfect (futur anterieur) – The past and future will have a perfect EZ aura. Que sera, sera.


Pluperfect/Past Perfect (plus-que-parfait) – Ava had flown Avions to the EU, and the ETA was pluperfect, EZ and convenient.


Past Simple (passé  simple) – Simple paid past-times, test a rented SST


Imperfect (imparfait) – She was eating a parfait, it is imperfect, how I-ronic.


Present Perfect (passé composé) – A composer says, “I have spoken!”, to his Avon selling son.


Past Conditional/Conditional Perfect (conditionnel parfait) – Laura is conditionally perfect in the past.


Present Conditional (conditionnel present) – Ain’t present conditions Infinite and EZ!


A lot can be learned by doing this exercise. You may have noticed that past tenses and perfect tenses, contain a past participle. Imperfect does not, and neither do future tenses. Why would they? It’s past participle. You may argue that future perfect shouldn’t, but there is an element of the past in this tense, so it makes sense to me.


Translation Je Tu


Past Conditional would have spoken j’aurais parlé tu aurais parlé il aurait parlé
Pluperfect had spoken j’avais parlé tu avais parlé il avait parlé
Passé Composé have spoken j’ais parlé tu as parlé il a parlé
Imperfect was speaking, spoke je parlais tu parlais il parlait
Present speak je parle tu parles il parle
Future will speak je parlerai tu parleras il parlera
Conditional would speak je parlerais tu parlerais il parlerait
Future Perfect will have spoken j’aurai parlé tu auras parlé il aura parlé


Translation Nous Vous


Past Conditional would have spoken nous aurions parlé vous auriez parlé ils auraient parlé
Pluperfect had spoken nous avions parlé vous aviez parlé ils avaient parlé
Passé Composé have spoken nous avons parlé vous avez parlé ils ont parlé
Imperfect was speaking, spoke nous parlions vous parliez ils parlaient
Present speak nous parlons vous parlez ils parlent
Future will speak nous parlerons vous parlerez ils parleront
Conditional would speak nous parlerions vous parleriez ils parleraient
Future Perfect will have spoken nous aurons parlé vous aurez parlé ils auront parlé

I hope these mnemonics have helped or inspired you to create your own. If I was allowed to bring one piece of paper into a real French test, I would have these visual mnemonics on one side, and the overview…

frenchtenses171 (2)


on the other side. Another way viewing these visual mnemonics, next to an actual conjugation page, would look like this:

Tense Matching

French Moods and Tenses

Let me start by giving you the map, which you may call a “cheat sheet”:


A verb in the purest form (without a noun or subject pronoun to perform the action) is called an infinitive. The infinitives in English are characterized by the prefix “to” + “verb form”, the French infinitives are identified by three common endings.

Example: manger (to eat), avoir (to have), entendre (to hear)

Sometimes you’ll hear people call the -er ending the “first conjunction”, the -ir ending the “second conjunction”, and the -re ending the “third conjunction”.

In French, there are three moods: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive:

1. Indicative Mood (objective)
2. Subjunctive Mood (subjective)
3. Imperative Mood (commands)

The indicative mood conveys something as factual or objective. “Je mange le pomme”, (I eat the apple). The indicative mood is the one used most often because it indicates a fact or something that is happening, has happened, or will happen. On the cheat sheet, the blue areas are indicative, so you can see that most useful tenses happen in the indicative mood.

The imperative mood is often a command. For example: “Fermez la porte“, (Close the door). It may also be used to give an order, express a desire, make a request, offer advice, or recommend something. The red areas are imperative.

The subjunctive mood is the mood of doubt, subjectivity, uncertainty, emotion, and will. For example: “Je ne pense pas qu’il puisse y arriver”, (I don’t think he can get there).  Generally, the subjunctive mood always follows “que” (though “que” does not always indicate the subjunctive). The orange areas on the chart are subjunctive.

The conditional mood is sometimes mentioned as a fourth mood, because linguistics is so controversial. The French conditional mood is very similar to the English conditional mood. It describes events that are not guaranteed to occur; often they are dependent on certain conditions. While the French conditional mood has a full set of conjugations, the English equivalent is just the modal verb “would” + main verb.

The French conditional is mainly used in if … then situations, to express what would happen if a condition were met. For example: “Il mangerait s’il avait faim”, (He would eat if he were hungry). The green areas on the chart are conditional.

Now we’ll talk about verb tenses. Actions (verbs) can be expressed either in the present, past, future, or conditional tenses. They appear in either simple or compound forms. Verbs that do not require changes in their stems are considered regular. Verbs requiring spelling or stem changes are considered irregular.

The indicative mood has a simple and a compound version of the present tense. The simple present is the same as in English. For example: “Je suis fatigue”, (I am tired). A compound version of the present tense is known as the present perfect.

The present perfect tense is formed by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb avoir (to have) + the appropriate verb’s past participle (regular or irregular form). Example: “J’ai parlé”, (I have spoken).

There are four versions of the past tense in the indicative mood. They are the simple past, pluperfectpresent perfect and an imperfect tense.

There are two versions of the future tense in the indicative mood. They are future and past future. The future tense corresponds to the English “will” or “shall”, and the verb is in a simple conjugated form, in a regular or irregular manner. Example: “Je parlerai”, (I will speak).

The past future is formed by using the future tense of the auxiliary verb avoir + past participle (regular or irregular form). Example: “J’aurai parlé”, (I will have spoken).

Indicative mood summary: We have covered eight verb tenses consisting of two present, four past tenses, and two future .

The subjunctive mood has four verb tenses. As mentioned earlier, subjunctive mood is used to express everything except certainty and objectivity…like doubt, uncertainty, and subjectivity. There are many clauses that are used to make the mood subjunctive. You will find a long list of these clauses, here:

The present subjunctive mood simply uses “que” for that and the present conjugations. The clause is subordinate to the main clause.

The past subjunctive mood is used for the same reasons as the present subjunctive, and that is to express emotion, doubts, etc. The past subjunctive is used when the verb in the subordinate clause – the verb that follows que – happened before the verb in the main clause.

The imperfect subjunctive mood, is a literary verb form used in formal writing, such as literature, journalism, and history. Like all literary verb forms, you really only need to be able to recognize it, not use it. The imperfect subjunctive is used in a subordinate clause (so look for “que”) when the main clause is in the past. Its non-literary equivalent is the present subjunctive.

The pluperfect subjunctive mood, is formed by taking the past subjunctive form of avoir, preceding it with “que”, and following it with the past participle. Example: “que j’eusse parlé” (that I had spoken). The French pluperfect subjunctive is the least common literary tense.

The imperative mood has two verb tenses, past and present. With this mood you express an intention to influence the behavior of someone else, by giving them an order, invitation, or request. The French past imperative is very rare, because its usage is restricted to a single situation: it gives a command for something that must be done before a certain time. Example: “Soyez partis à midi”, (Be gone by noon).

The present imperative is conjugation is limited to nous, vous, and tu. When you see the command, you will not see the subject pronoun, just the conjugated verb. Example: “Fermez la porte!”, (Close the door!)

The past imperative is a compound conjugation, which means it has two parts: the imperative of the auxiliary verb (either avoir or être), and the past participle of the main verb.

Subjunctive mood summary: We have covered four verb tenses, consisting of one present, and three past tenses.

French also has three conditional tenses. The conditional is used to express what would happen given certain events or actions.

The first use, conditional present, is when you’d like to express a wish or suggestion. Example: “Je voudrais aller en France pendant les vacances d’hiver’’, (I’d like to go to France during winter holiday.)

The second use, past conditional, is a compound conjugation, which means it has two parts. The first is the conditional of the auxiliary verb (either avoir or être), and then the past participle of the main verb. The past conditional is often used in “si clauses” with the unmet condition in the past perfect. What does that mean? Example: “Si je l’avais vu, je l’aurais acheté”, (If I had seen it, I would have bought it). Notice the two tenses of the “avoir” verb, meaning “to have”.

The third use is the second form of the past conditional, which is the literary equivalent of the conditional perfect and looks like the pluperfect subjunctive (they are conjugated identically). It is important to be able to recognize the tense, but you will probably never need to conjugate it, since it is mainly in literary “si” clauses.

This is the one on wikipedia…and I’m pretty sure my versions are more complete, but the version below does break down the moods, so it may be worth having around. Just wish it included -re and -ir verbs:

French Pronunciation Cheat Sheet

French Pronunciation Guide

The source for these pronunciation rules are from the 1917 French Textbook:

Pages 15 – 21, and:

This seems to have come out pretty well but you never know if there are mistakes, because I’m the only one that worked on it, and I make mistakes. If you find any, please write to the blog ( or make a comment. Thanks.

Don’t forget to review my French Verb Tense and Mood cheat sheet as well:

frenchtenses171 (2)


First Day of Studying French – Gathering The Tools

These are the essential tools and files you need to collect before you start learning French on your own, in my opinion. You may be learning the language using Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, Babbel, RocketLanguage, Fluenz, and others, but these are the free tools available to you on the Internet, that I have found especially useful:

I would like you to consider at the very minimum augmenting your study with Duolingo. You should register here:

I also want you to go to Linqvist and register for the site while it is still in Beta and free. You will begin to use it when you’ve reached over 800 words on Duolingo:

Whenever you see a concept that you do not understand, please visit the University of Texas at Austin’s French website.

This is the index page, and it’s just that easy to find the issue, click to the lesson page, read the content, and then take a quick test to see if you understood what you have read.

Also bookmark these sites for use. They offer free samples and you may decide to invest some money in one of these courses if the free resources (duolingo, lingvist) do not work well for you:

You must at a minimum have the pronunciation down pat, or you’ll say French words wrong in your English speaking mind, and it will stick, go here (has audio examples):

and here:

You should have a table of conjugations at your immediate disposal:

Many popular textbooks are found in PDF form here:

I’d like you to bookmark my collection of websites:

Since there are two other free textbooks that are used for first year French students, semesters one and two, let’s grab those as well:

Next, I’d like you to download another free program. It’s free and found here:

What is Anki? It’s a study card program like many others, which uses timed intervals to help you re-inforce what you have learned. It works to improve your memory.

“Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it’s a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn.” That’s what they say. It’s an interesting tool, that’s what I say.

The program is just under 23 MB in size. Download and install…you can then download an Anki “shared” Deck, and benefit from the work of others. French language decks are found here:

After you have downloaded and installed Anki, I want you to place an add-on program into Anki. We are going to add the power of audio files, using an add-on called, “Awesome TTS” (TTS = Text-to-Speech). After opening Anki, in the “Install Add-on” window, copy and paste 301952613 into the “Code” field and click “OK”. The download happens in seconds. Close Anki then re-open. The power to automatically add audio to your files, specifically French speakers reading your card text, is now in your Anki program.

I then suggest you register with Anki (it’s free). This will allow you to synchronize your decks across multiple platforms, like your smart phone, and various android devices.

If you wish to become more proficient at Anki, you may find You Tube videos helpful, or you can download this PDF and use it for reference. The download is found at the bottom right, as a picture of the PDF’s front cover:

A popular French verb PDF is found here:

We’re now going to start our own MP3 French language collection, so create a directory of your choice, in the location you wish, and go here:

Click the one that says “all mp3s”, and you will be downloading 106 MB of audio that is used with the Univeristy of Texas at Austin’s French program.

Since we’re still in the gathering stage, I’d like you to add a program called “DownLoad Them All!” to your Firefox browser.

This program will allow you to right-click at a website and start a download of all of the MP3’s found on a website. After installing the program, and restarting your Firefox browser, you are going to do just that, at these websites:

Right-click and choose to Download Them All! and then “Start”. Watch the magic happen….incredible isn’t it?

We’re going to repeat this downloading method, on this other page:

While we’re here, I’d like you to bookmark this page:

You will use this page often.

There is one more page that contains 17,000 mp3’s, that you will want to have. You will not need the Download Them All! for this one, as it is a zip file. It is found here:

Go down to around mid-page, where you see “Télécharger”, which means download. Click it, download, and unzip into your target directory. Now you have scores of words in alphabetical order, in multiple folders. I personally got rid of all the folders, and simply put them all in one folder, so that I could see them alphabetically. When I hear a word I did not understand on Duolingo, I go here and can replay the pronunciation over and over, until I have the sound correct.

Since people just love it when they get something for nothing, Pimsleur has a free section where you can download some of their French MP3s, located here: (You will use Download Them All!)

You may also find a vocabulary index on this site:

And perform MP3 downloads on the page that contains your particular subject interest. Bookmark this site for later.

The BBC has a website filled with MP3s, that you can download.

and their tutor site may interest you:

My French verb guide, which took me forever to develop, is here:


I printed my version and laminated it so that it is always nearby. This will save you from being side-swiped by language teachers that throw a verb tense or mood at you, seemingly out of nowhere, or worse, they start to use the French word for the tense.

I also developed a pronunciation cheat sheet:

French Pronunciation Guide

Let’s review what we have…almost every word and phrase you need, in MP3 form, two free textbooks that focus on group discussion learning, an on-line course, a memory re-enforcement tool that synchronizes across all platforms, several bookmarks with indexed lessons and discussions on French grammar, and a bunch of cheat sheets for popular verbs, French verb tenses and moods, my pronunciation guide, and other cheat sheets that may help us get through rough spots. We’re now ready to start Duolingo.

Other resources:

Videos from “Learn French with Jennifer” are found on YouTube, and she lists the names of those videos in this blog post.

The “Learn French with Jennifer” YouTube page is found here:

An on-line French Audio Dictionary of 2500 words:

Memrise, a flashcard website…and the French section is found here:

Quizlet is another memory training website…and the Duolingo French section can be found here:

Another is a picture-based 1500 word website containing many languages, called Babadum, found here:

In the early stages of learning, you may find the basics very helpful, even though you read the first few chapters of that 1917 Textbook. I suggest you look through these websites during your first few weeks:

and the site map page for French.about dot com’s website:

and when you see a word that you need pronounced right away, go to Forvo:

We’ll also bookmark where we can watch the news in French every day:

That’s it for day one. You’ve gathered a ton of tools in a very short time. You may feel overwhelmed right now. The idea is to not spend a lot of time administering your lessons, tools and look-ups. Look at the tags and categories on my blog, to find areas which you are comfortable with, like songs, children’s songs, podcasts, etc.

Note: The next level of tools will include websites like:

and listening to Podcasts with Marie…free…well over a hundred and counting…and engaging…at:

and focusing on listening skills which will provide additional vocabulary and phrases. A new site accumulates native speakers of all kinds, in many languages, including French:

You will want to start practicing the words you now know how to pronounce, and you may use Skype for this, after finding language partners on line. There are many, so Google for sites that offer language partners. I have used:

To avoid having to schedule Skype sessions, think about using these sites. They have a list of people on-line, ready to talk:

If you wish to avoid a lot of the errors that English speakers experience while learning French, you may wish to read my post on what I would have liked to have known during my first month studying French…found here:

If you are still wanting more, you can attempt to use DownLoadThemAll on these pages for the FSI Language Course and textbook:

Personally, I use spreadsheets for my language vocabularies and phrases. Each sheet contains a particular subject: adjectives, adjectives plural, adverbs, alphabet, animals, appliances, art related, baby related, bank related, basic phrases, bathroom, body parts, buildings, camping, car related, cardinal numbers, classroom subjects, clothing, coffee related, colloquials, colors, computer related, conjunctions, conversations – simple, conversations – complex, cosmetics, countries, daily routine, days of the week, dentist’s office, dining room, directions, doctor’s office, drinks, emotions, employment, family, food related, fruits, furniture, garden, hobbies, holidays, house, household, instruments, irregular past participles, kitchen, marriage related, meals, meats, medical, months, music, nature, negations, news related, numbers, ocean related, ordinals, places, prepositions, professions, pronouns, pronunciation, reflexive verbs, quantities, questions, school related, seasons, shapes, shopping, slang, sports, time, tools, traffic, transportation, travel, vegetables, verbs, weather, zodiac.

It is very easy to copy a column of words from a spreadsheet, and drop it into Google Translate, translate into the language you wish, and then copy and paste to an adjacent column in your spreadsheet. If you stay organized with your vocabulary from the start, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with your lists.

I’m also going to recommend, Self-Taught French by Timm. Here you can find the PDF:

and here is the YouTube video which you can download:

Good luck.