French Textbook


What is a tense?

There are three tenses, and they are straightforward.

Tenses reflect the moment in which the speaker is referring to. The three tenses apply to most of the six modes above, in an irregular pattern.

We’ll take ‘to like, to love – aimer’ as our example


Present tense: refers to general actions or actions happening now

indicative mode J’aime les livres. I like books. I’m liking books.
imperative mode Aime les livres ! Like books!
conditional mode J’aimerais les livres… I would like books…
subjunctive mode Il faut que j’aime les livres… I have to like books…
participle mode Aimant les livres …

… en aimant les livres

Liking books…

… while loving books

infinitive mode  aimer les livres to like books

Past tense: refers to actions happening before

indicative mode J’ai aimé ces livres.

J’aimais ces livres.

J’avais aimé ces livres.

I like these books.

I used to like these books.

I had liked these books

conditional mode J’aurais aimé les livres… I would have liked books…
subjunctive mode Il fallait que j’aie aimé les livres… I had to have liked books…
participle mode les livres aimés …

… en ayant aimé les livres

books that were liked…

… while having loved books

infinitive mode  avoir aimé les livres having liked books

Future tense: refers to actions happening after

indicative mode J’aimerai les livres.

Je vais aimer les livres.

J’aurai aimé les livres.

I will like books.

I’m going to like books.

I will have liked the books.

There are some subtle variations for tenses, such as the passé composé and the imparfait which are both part of the past tenses, which is why you see so many ‘conjugaisons‘ in the grammar book.


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