Fun with Regular –(d)re Verbs
Table of Contents
- I. Formation and Pronunciation of -(d)re Verbs
- II. Aus sprachsgeshichtlicher Perspektive
- III. Learn These -(d)re Verbs First
- IV. Then Learn These Others
- V. One or Two Similarly-Conjugated Verbs
I. Formation and Pronunciation of -(d)re Verbs
We are talking here about verbs with infinitive ending in –re, and a present stem ending in –d (written in both singular and plural forms; pronounced only in the plural).
Present of Regular –re Verbs
- Remove the –re from the infinitive to get the present stem
e.g., perdre –re = perd
- Add the personal endings -s, -s, ∅, -ons, -ez, -ent
e.g., perds perds perd perdons perdez perdent
The -d- is present throughout the written forms, but is pronounced only in the plural. The singular endings are, as usual in modern French, not pronounced at all. The ending of the third-person plural -ent has the value only of a “feeble e” (e caduc), which means you pronounce the final -d- of the base, release on it, and pronounce not a single sound more. Here are the written and spoken forms of perdre compared:
|Present Looks Like||Present Sounds Like|
For memorization of the written singular present forms, repeat this mantra over and over to yourself: “ds, ds, d. ds, ds, d,” 1 and so forth. (In speech you of course do not pronounce or hear this “ds” and this “d.”)
Note that all the verbs of this group have a base that ends in a -d- (unpronounced in the singular) and, immediately before that, either the liquid -r- or the nasal consonant -n-. The latter letter (-n-) does not indicate a real consonant [n], but simply nasalization of the preceding vowel [ ˜ ]. Hence, the pronounced singular stem of an -er verb ends very weakly, either with a nasal vowel, or with a comparatively puny consonant sound (the liquid -r-).
|Verb With Singular Stem Ending in a Liquid: perdre||Verb with Singular Stem Ending in a Nasal: pondre|
|Present Looks Like||Present Sounds Like||Present Looks Like||Present Sounds Like|
Verbs like perdre: Well…really only perdre.
Verbs like pondre: All the others!!!
As for the remaining forms:
- Future-Conditional Stem: Regularly formed.
- Past Participle: Add –u– to the base: perdu, pondu
- Simple Past: Base + i + personal endings: perdis, pondis (See The Simple Past.)
II. Aus sprachsgeshichtlicher Perspektive
This entire section belongs in a Latin box. If you don’t have any Latin, it is okay to skip it.
The Latin behind the French Regular –(d)re Conjugation
These verbs are mostly from Latin third-conjugation verbs with a base ending in -(n)d-. The infinitive ending of these verbs –(d)re comes from the Latin third-conjugation infinitive -(d)ĕre; the unaccented -e- fell out at an early point. The remaining final –e [ə] is not the original final –e, but a support vowel required by the new consonant cluster -dr-.
As noted in Formation and Pronunciation above, the only French verb in this group not to have an –n– before the –d– is perdre.
For the development of the present forms, see the table after this box.
The Classical Latin past participle ending –ĭtum was replaced in Late Latin with -ūtum, resulting in the modern participial ending in -u.
- One regular –re verb, répondre, comes from a second-conjugation Latin verb (respondeo, respondēre, respondi, responsus) that was assimilated to the other -re verbs because of the similar way in which the base ended (-nd-).
- One very nice Latin third conjugation verb of this type (base ending in -nd-) did not alas make it into modern French: condo (condere condidi conditum). Admittedly, the resulting singular present forms (je conds, tu conds, on cond) would have presented us with a very awkward homophonie (for which the technical term is: une homophonie fâcheuse).
The present forms developed in something like the following sequence (a logical, if not true chronological, sequence). Recall that, in passing from Latin to French, as a rule anything post-tonic (after the stressed syllable) disappears except for -a and -s.
|Classical Latin||Intermediate Forms||Old French||Modern French|
III. Learn These -(d)re Verbs First
The “conjugation” of regular –re verbs is small and not “living” (that is, it can no longer be added to), but it contains absolutely essential verbs. Learn these:
In its normal usage, = “to wait for”; it takes a direct object.
- Nous attendons l’autobus. (We are waiting for the bus.)
Compare English “to await,” which also takes a direct object: “We are awaiting the bus.”
Rarely, attendre with a direct object can mean “to expect” or “to hope for.”
- Ce que nous attendons de vous, c’est votre participation enthousiaste. (What we are expecting from you is your enthusiastic participation.)
- Elle attend un bébé. (She is expecting a baby.)
- Otherwise, “to expect” is expressed by the pronominal s’attendre à.
The noun attente, feminine, has both the meanings 1) “act of waiting” and 2) “expectation, hope.”
- salle d’attente = “waiting room”
- Le résultat ne répondait pas à notre attente. (The result did not correspond to what we hoped.)
Two very different meanings!
- = “to defend”
- = “to forbid” (= interdire)
Je vous défends d’en parler! (I forbid you to speak about it!)
The noun la défense has both these meanings.
De par le Roi, / Défense à Dieu / De faire miracle / En ce lieu.
By royal act juridical, / We outlaw any miracle / Performed by the Divinity / In just this-here vicinity.– Decree jokingly attributed to the French king (Louis XV)
- = “to be dependent on” (as, financially)
- = “to be under the authority of; to be decided by”
- = “to depend on” in the sense of “be determined by”
« Vous aimez le cinéma, Monsieur? —Cela dépend de la qualité du film. » (“Do you like movies, Sir?” “That depends on the quality of the film.”)
Note that, in all these uses, the preposition is de (with the meaning of “from”). Indeed, given the original meaning of both the French dépendre and English “to depend,” the French choice of preposition is the more logical one.
For “to depend on” in the sense of “to count on,” one says compter sur.
Nous comptons sur toi. (We’re counting on you.)
- = “to descend, to go down, to climb down,” etc. A House-of-Being verb in this usage, it does not take a direct object…
- Descendons tous dans la rue! (Everybody into the streets!)
- Perceval refusa de descendre de son cheval. (Perceval refused to get down off his horse.)
- Il est descendu de la tour en se servant des cheveux de la pucelle. (He climbed down the tower by using the maiden’s hair.)
- Descendre d’un autobus; descendre d’un taxi. (To get off a bus; to get out of a taxi.)
- …except, illogically, with a stream of water, a street, stairs, or a hill…things that have a length to them:
- Nous descendons paisiblement la rivière…l’avenue, les marches…la montagne. (We are peacefully going down the river…the avenue…the steps…the mountain.)
- Transitively, descendre = “to take (a thing) down.”
- Voulez-vous bien descendre cette bouteille à la cave? (Would you be so kind as to take this bottle down to the cellar?)
- (Metaphorically:) Il a engagé un tueur à gages, avec la commission de descendre ses ennemis. (He hired a hit man, with the task of taking down his enemies.)
- = “to hear”
- In exceptional cases entendre = “to understand” in the sense of “to mean (by)”:
- Qu’est-ce que vous entendez par cela? = “What do you mean by that?”
- Hence the noun une entente = “an understanding, an agreement.” Consider also:
- C’est entendu = “It’s understood, It’s agreed.” Then there is, of course:
- Bien entendu = “Of course.”
- s’entendre (bien) avec, bizarrely, means “to get along with.” See Idiomatic Pronominal Verbs.
- Je m’entends bien avec lui = “I get along fine with him.”
- Nous nous entendons bien = “We get along fine.”
Mais, Ô mon cœur, entends le chant des matelots!
(But hear, my heart, the song the sailors make!) – Mallarmé, “Brise marine”
- = to hang, both transitively and absolutely
- Transitively: Je vais pendre ce tableau au mur. (I am going to hand this painting on the wall.)
- Absolutely: Le tableau pendait au mur. (The painting was hanging on the wall.)
- pendard(e) = “person who deserves to be hanged.”
- pendu(e) = “person who has been hanged.”
- pendant, masc. = a) earring or what hangs from an earring; b) decorative object symmetrical to another object; c) the “opposite number” of anything
- Preposition: pendant (during); conjunction: pendant que (while)
- Adverb: cependant, the original meaning of which was: “meanwhile” (= “during this time”), and the modern meaning: “however.”
Ballade des pendus
“Ballade of the Hanged” (title given to the ballade beginning Frères humains, qui après nous vivez)
– François Villon
- = “to lose”
- = “to destroy” 2
une femme perdue = “a ruined woman”
J’ai perdu ma force et ma vie, / Et mes amis et ma gaieté!
I have lost my strength and my life, / And my friends and my gaiety! – Alfred Musset, “Tristesse“
Laura Lawless has a nice list of expressions with perdre.
- = “to return = to give back”
- Après avoir emprunté mon stylo, il me l’a rendu. (After borrowing my pen, he returned it to me.)
- Construction: rendre + nom + adjectif = “to make something something”
- La satisfaction de ses désirs l’a rendu très content. (The satisfaction of his desires made him very happy.)
- se rendre
- “to go to a place (as instructed)”
- Nous nous sommes rendus à la mairie à l’heure convenue. (We went to the town hall at the agreed upon time.)
- Noun: J’ai fixé un rendez-vous avec le médecin. (I made an appointment with the doctor.)
- “to surrender = to give oneself up”
- En 52 av. J-C. Vercingétorix dut se rendre à Jules César. (In 52 BC Vercingetorix was obliged to surrender to Julius Caesar.)
- “to go to a place (as instructed)”
- = “to answer.” Always with à. Think of English “reply to.”
- Il a répondu à la dame. Il lui a répondu. (He answered the lady. He answered hurrim.)
- Il a répondu à la question. Il y a répondu. (He answered the question. He answered it.)
- répondre de = “to answer for,” i.e., to take responsibility for
- Je réponds de lui. (I’ll answer for him.)
- The adjective responsable can also be used as a noun, meaning: the person in charge.
- répondre can be used where in English we would say “to correspond.”
- Ce poste répond-il à vos souhaits? (Does this job correspond to [fit with] what you want?)
- Aux statues, assises sur des socles, répondaient d’énormes lustres pendant au plafond. (To the statues seated on pedestals corresponded enormous lights hanging from the ceiling.)
- Well, it means “to sell.”
- Noun: la vente
IV. Then Learn These Others
…has, bizarrely, the meaning “to expect.” See Idiomatic Pronominal Verbs.
- Je m’attendais à bien des choses, mais pas à cela! (I was expecting lots of things, but not that!
- Comme on pouvait s’y attendre… (As one might have expected…)
Personne ne s’attend à l’Inquisition espagnole!
– Monty Python
confondre (see fondre)
- = “to fail to distinguish = to mix up = to take one thing for another”
La « justice » et la « justesse » désignent deux concepts différents; il ne faut pas les confondre. (“Justice” and “rightness” refer to two different concepts; you mustn’t mix them up.)
- = “to confound, discountenance, discombobulate”
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent / Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité…
Like lingering echoes, blended from afar / Into a dark, abysmal unity…
– Baudelaire, “Correspondances”
The regularly formed past participle of this verb is confondu; another one exists based on the classical Latin past participle confusus, confusa > confus(e). The latter has two meanings corresponding to the two above. According to the TLFi, the difference is that confus refers to a state and confondu to the result of a process.
- Ces idées existaient dans un état confus, embryonnaire. (These ideas existed in a confused, embryonic state.)
- Ah! nous sommes confus. Nous ne vous avons pas reconnu, Monseigneur! (We are terribly embarrassed; we didn’t recognize you, Your Grace!)
- = the opposite of tendre; hence, “to relax (something or someone)”
- past participle détendu = “relaxed”
- se détendre = “to relax” (absolutely)
Qu’allez-vous faire ce weekend? – Me détendre. (“What are you going to do this weekend?” “Relax.”)
- Basically the same as English “to extend” (with direct object)
L’arbre étendait ses feuilles, nous procurant ainsi un abri bien salutaire. (The tree extended its leaves, thereby providing us with a a very healthy protection.)
- Past participle étendu(e) can mean “extensive”
Il a des connaissances très étendues. (He is very extensively informed.)
- Noun: étendue (fem.) = “extent; expanse”
On ne trouve rien de pareil dans toute l’étendue de la nature. (You can’t find anything similar in the entire expanse of nature.)
- Pronominal s’étendre = “to extend” (absolutely)
Les racines de l’arbre s’étendaient très loin à même le sol. (The roots of the tree reached very far at ground level.)
- = “to split (in pieces)”
- “to melt, liquefy,” both transitively and absolutely:
- Le soleil avait vite fait de fondre le givre qui couvraient le gazon. (The sun had quickly melted the frost that covered the lawn.)
- Le beurre fondait de lui-même, tellement il faisait chaud. (It was so hot, the butter melted on its own.)
- Literally, “to lay (an egg).” Subject has to be an oviparous female.
- Figuratively, “to produce (something, usually something written)”
Notre ami Charles a pondu un chef-d’œuvre. (Our friend Charles has produced a masterwork.)
A verb deserving multiple death marks (†)!!! It never means “to pretend” (for which one says: feindre or faire semblant de or faire comme si). Learn these meanings:
- “to claim.”
- With a following present infinitive: “to think you can accomplish something difficult and to intend to do so.”
Example of use nº 1:
- Il prétend que c’est moi qui ai dit la première injure. (He claims that I made the first insult.)
Examples of use nº 2:
- Il prétend résoudre le problème le premier. (He thinks he will be able to solve the problem before anybody else.)
- « On reconnaît là l’esprit restrictif du poète grammairien qui prétendait réduire le vocabulaire français au parler de l’Île-de-France! » (“On recognizes here the restrictive spirit of the grammarian-poet who thought he could, and intended to, reduce French vocabulary to the local idiom of the Île-de-France!”) — Jean Suberville
You will find the past participle prétendu used as an adjective and usually translatable as “so-called,” in the sense of “somebody claims that this is so.”
- Ces prétendus professeurs doivent nous enseigner? (These so-called teachers are supposed to instruct us?)
As a noun (that is, a substantivized adjective), prétendu means one’s “intended” = fiancé.
- Amalric est mon prétendu. (Amalric is my fiancé.)
- = “to pour forth, to pour out” (especially, and literally, a liquid)
- = “to shed” (blood)
- = “to spread, spread about, distribute widely” (e.g., light; news, a rumor; money; favors; etc.)
L’amour de Dieu a été répandu dans nos cœurs par l’Esprit Saint qui nous a été donné.
The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
– Saint Paul, Romans 5:5
- = “to stretch, stretch out”; hence, “to make taut”
- past participle tendu literally = “taut”
- psychologically = “tense.” J’ai les nerfs tendus (syn. crispés).
- = to extend (hand) something to someone
Il lui tendit le billet sans dire un mot. (He handed the note to hurrim without saying a word.)
- tendre la main à quelqu’un = “to extend your hand (e.g., for someone to shake)”
- tendre un piège à quelqu’un = “to set a trap for someone”
Gendarmes! qui passez sur le chemin; / Gendarmes! je tends les mains…
Constables, passing by, / Constables, I reach out my hands to you [i.e., asking for mercy]!
– Charles Trenet, “Je chante“
V. One or Two Similarly-Conjugated Verbs
These are verbs that, while they do not have a base ending in –nd-, are nonetheless conjugated almost identically to –(d)re verbs. Like the -(d)re verbs, they are derived from third-conjugation Latin verbs.
- Base & Infinitive Ending: bat(t) + -re
- Present: To base bat-/batt- add personal endings: -s, -s, –∅, -ons, -ez, -ent. In the singular forms, the single -t- is not pronounced.
Present Looks Like Present Sounds Like Present Looks Like Present Sounds Like bats [bɑ] battons [batõ] bats [bɑ] battez [bate] bat [bɑ] battent [bat]
- Future-Conditional Stem: Regularly formed
- Past Participle: battu
- Simple Past: (je) battis, etc. (See The Simple Past.)
Mon cœur ne bat que par ses ailes.
My heart beats only by its wings.
– Pierre Reverdy, “Tristesse”
Battre has a few derivatives:
- = “to knock or beat down, and thereby to kill or destroy”
- Noun: un abattoir = a slaughterhouse
- Past participle abattu = “very depressed, completely disheartened”
- Noun: un abat-jour = “a lampshade” 3
Mon père, je ne saurais mentir. C’est moi qui ai abattu le cerisier.
Father, I cannot tell a lie. ‘Twas I who cut down the cherry tree. [Or words to that effect.]
– Georges Washington
The following four derivatives of battre I recommend not worrying about until you have to:
débattre; combattre; rabattre; rebattre
Here is another important verb (with one derivative) conjugated like an -(d)re verb:
Like the -(d)re verbs, vaincre has a nasal vowel in the base, followed by a consonant, written as c in the present singular but not pronounced, and as qu (and pronounced [k]) in the present plural and elsewhere.
- Base & Infinitive Ending: vainc + -re
- Present: To base vainc/vainqu– add personal endings: -s, -s, –∅, -ons, -ez, -ent. In the singular forms, the -c- is not pronounced. Note the pattern -cs, -cs, -c in the singular.
Present Looks Like Present Sounds Like Present Looks Like Present Sounds Like vaincs [vɛ̃] vainquons [vɛ̃kõ] vaincs [vɛ̃] vainquez [vɛ̃ke] vainc [vɛ̃] vainquent [vɛ̃k]
- Future-Conditional Stem: Regularly formed
- Past Participle: vaincu
- Simple Past: (je) vainquis, etc. (See The Simple Past.)
Means not only
- “to convince,” but also
- “to convict.”
- “dee-ess, dee-ess, dee. dee-ess, dee-ess, dee.”↩
- The Latin perdo perdere also had these two meanings.↩
- “Jour” here means “light.”↩
Robert O'Connell says
memorization of the written singular present forms, repeat this mantra over and over to yourself: “ds, ds, d. ds, ds, d,”
What does this mean? don’t you mean dons & dez?
Mad Beppo says
My recommended mantra refers only to the three *singular* forms, such as in
“je venDS, tu venDS, on venD,”
and I suggest rhythmically repeating “dee-ess, dee-ess, dee” (with emphasis on the DEEs: DEE-ess DEE-ess DEE) as a way of fixing in one’s memory the pattern of these three endings (two with an S and one without). Since these letters are not pronounced, the three singular forms sound exactly the same, and it can be hard to remember where the S goes and where it doesn’t. The plural forms, in contrast, in addition to all containing a distinctly pronounced D, also all sound different from each other; consequently they are not so much of a problem.