We know that the English language uses "tenses" for verbs to indicate when an action takes place, and the same is true for French.
In the present tense, the action is taking place now, in the future tense, it will take place and in the past tense, it already took place.
In both English and French, there are many complicated tenses, many of which we don't even use in everyday speech. So for these French lessons, we will only learn the most common tenses: the present, future and past.
You don't even need to know the French names for theses tenses, you only need to know at which time the action is taking place.
French verbs have different endings to indicate the tense of the verb. Those endings depend on the "type" of verb.
There are two types of verbs in French, regular and irregular verbs.
Regular verbs always have the same endings, whereas irregular verbs have their own unique endings.
Of the regular there are three kinds: "er" verbs, "ir" verbs and "re" verbs. ALL regular "er" verbs will have the same endings that the verb Parler (to speak) has.
Tu as parle
Il/Elle a parle
Nous avons parle
Vouz avez parle
Ils/Elles ont parle
ALL regular "ir" verbs will have the same endings that the verb Finir (to finish) has.
Tu as fini
Il/Elle a fini
Nous avons fini
Vouz avez fini
Ils/Elles ont fini
ALL regular "re" verbs will have the same endings that the verb Mettre (to put) has.
Tu as mis
Il/Elle a mis
Nous avons mis
Vouz avez mis
Ils/Elles ont mis
Save these tables to use as a reference as we move forward in speaking French.
You will notice consistency in the endings for the verbs, and once we start discussing pronunciation you will see that, at least in spoken French, there is not as much to remember as it first appears.
Many letters are sounded the same, and some letters are not pronounced at all. Again, don't worry about pronunciation at this point. When we start working with pronunciation guides, once you get used to one sound, you will see it used over and over. The other type of verb is the irregular verb.
There are many irregular verbs, but only a few that are used very consistently and therefore need to be memorized. You noticed in the regular verbs that the "stem" of the verb always stayed the same.
That is, there is always a "par" in any form of parler, and always an "fin" in any form of finir.
Irregular verbs may actually change the stem in forming the different tenses, so it is difficult to form any rules about them. For the moment, we will just memorize the two most important irregular verbs, "etre (to be) and "avoir" (to have). The tenses of "Etre:
Tu as ete
Il/Elle a ete
Nous avons ete
Vouz avez ete
Ils/Elles ont ete
The tenses of "Avoir"
Tu as eu
Il/Elle a eu
Nous avons eu
Vouz avez eu
Ils/Elles ont eu
As you can see, both etre and avoir change quite a bit; sometimes etre starts with an "s", sometimes with an "e"; sometimes avoir starts with an "a, sometimes with an "o". These are two important verbs that just have to be memorized.