Visual Mnemonics for French Verb Tenses – Overview

Recently I challenged myself to put to rest the doubts that I had, about being able to recognize verb tenses. I decided to go with visual mnemonics. I have added these pictures to the prior posts on the topic, and any comments and improvements are welcome.

My goal is to establish links between the words themselves, and the tense, while at the same time creating a mnemonic sentence that a student can write down during a test. This sentence actually contains the keys to solving the conjugation of a verb in that tense. The challenge is not to create a sentence which can somehow be confused for another tense or conjugation sequence.

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


This phrase is familiar to anyone that has ever seen Buzz Lightyear in any of the Toy Story movies, with a slight variation. Although it is intuitive that “will be” is in the future, the color lands your eye next to “infinity” which represents the infinitive of the verb. This tells you that the conjugation will contain the complete verb “parler”, reinforced by the matching color. To help with conjugations, the picture shows Nous and Ils, being linked to the “on” in beyond, using colors. The problem with “ai”, “as”, “a” and “ez”, is solved by having them aligned under “infinity” and the first two letters underlined visually remind the user that the remaining conjugations are limited to two letters.

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


Since we’re in the future, lets talk about the other future conjugation, the past future, future past, futur anterieur, whatever you wish to classify “will have”. The mnemonic contains both tense elements and the theme is consistent, promising “perfect” to trigger the inclusion of the past participle. An EZ aura, triggers the beginning and endings for many of the conjugations. Since the auxiliary verb could also be “to be”, a simple reminder that whatever will be, will be…(a song made famous in America by Doris Day…look it up), gives us the conjugations of Être.

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


The pluperfect is the tense which gave me the most trouble when conjugating. It doesn’t help that it is also known as the Past Perfect (which means it contains the past participle element, which means there are two auxiliary verb conjugations to worry about). There are two words which anchor the mnemonic, Avions and Pluperfect. Either one, for me, triggers the entire mnemonic, which in turn solves the riddle of the conjugation, and the English equivalents. All of the other “perfect” tenses (the ones that use the past particle) can also use the orange irregular past particles seen in this picture (keyed using EU…), but I call the irregular out in this picture because it’s the perfect tense where I most often encountered the irregular past participles.

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


This was the most difficult mnemonic to create, and also the most intricate one. This mnemonic is not as intuitive as the others, and may require you to use it several times before it’s automatic. The mnemonic does contain all of the conjugations for -er verbs, as seen by the colors. The ending triggers the peculiar -ir and -re verb conjugations for je, tu, and Il/elle/on. Notice the accent above the “Nous” and “Vous” conjugations? I have no idea how to trigger that in this mnemonic, so you simply have to note that the accent makes the Past Simple not that simple.

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


For an American, a parfait is something they sell at McDonald’s, and it contains yogurt or ice cream, and is adorned with nuts, syrup, etc. What could be more perfect? The irony is that as “she” was eating one, it is imperfect, and therefore ironic. The mnemonic attempts to reveal the conjugation trickery of the Imperfect tense. Through the use of colors, the strange “a” that appears in je, tu, il and ils is shown. The “is” and “it” are revealed in the je, tu, and il conjugations, and finally, the word I-ronic reminds the conjugator, to make sure they slip an “i” into each conjugation.

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


This visual not only tells you the English equivalent, but reminds you that an accent mark at the end of the past particle tells you that it is one of the perfect tenses. You will see this tense so often, that you will probably have no problem with the je, tu, il, and vous conjugations, but you may be tricked by the nous and ils conjugations. The mnemonic addresses that with Avon and son, color linking mnemonic words to the conjugations. The mnemonic does not address the irregular past participles which you saw in the visual for the Past Perfect, so if you wish, you can add a trigger or key to the visual, and personalize it.

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


The mnemonic does not address the irregular past participles which you saw in the visual for the Past Perfect, so if you wish, you can add a trigger or key to the visual, and personalize it.

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