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Memorising the most useful forms (most likely to be the third person singular and plural, i.e. il/elle/on, ils/elles) of the most common French verbs is a great time saver, if not an absolute necessity. This is partly due to the fact that verbs can be very difficult to find in a dictionary. Indeed, the only form you will find in a dictionary is the infinitive (i.e. the unconjugated form of the verb), so if you want to look up avez for example, you will not find it. Without knowing its infinitive form (avoir), you cannot check its meaning. In the case of -er verbs, you can more easily trace back the infinitive (because the stem does not change), but a lot of -ir or -re verbs will have a very irregular stem, making it much harder if not impossible to trace it. For another illustration of this, consider the verb aller (to go):


An easy solution to this problem is to use an online dictionary. For example will indeed give you the infinitive form corresponding to a conjugated form.

Failing to do that, you need to learn to recognise the most common irregular verb forms (in order to be able to trace back their infinitive and look it up if needed).

Activity: Now please try and use with each of the following sentences. First identify the verb and see what infinitive form(s) wordreference suggests for it, then try to translate the whole sentence if you can.


Le pays sort de la crise économique.

The verb is 'sort' and wordreference suggests the infinitive sortir (to go out, to come out)

Given the context, a correct translation would be 'The country is emerging from the economic crisis'.

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L'auteur porte un jugement sur ce parti politique.

The verb is 'porte' and wordreference suggests the infinitive: porter (to carry, to wear, etc.).

Given the context, the correct translation will probably be 'The author is passing judgement on this political party'.

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Je suis mes amis sur Twitter.

The verb is 'suis' and wordreference suggests 2 possible infinitives: être (to be) or suivre (to follow).

Given the context, the correct translation will be 'I follow my friends on Twitter'.

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Although you have probably been able to identify the verb and find its infinitive quite easily using, you may have struggled a bit more when it came to finding the best translation for it. This could be because you are not too familiar with using a dictionary. If you think this is the case, then the section on dictionary skills will be of particular interest to you. But before we move on to that, let's leave French verbs aside for now and focus on nouns...