Who's afraid of conjugation?



Conjugation is not usually a popular thing to study. It makes most of my students cringe when I mention verbs, tenses,

modes, endings of agreement.


Actually, the list of words mentioned above might not even be part of the vocabulary my students are used to. And when they are introduced to conjugation, they are first asked to learn the most irregular verbs with not identifiable pattern. Very likely, they form the idea that all French verbs are like this, that it will only go from bad to worse and that conjugation is definitely not something that they will ever master.



Very often, no one ever bothered showing them the big picture or explaining what a powerful and logical tool conjugation is. Present is not the easiest tense to learn. French conjugation is not necessarily as easy as English conjugation. But the latter has its own pitfalls and subtleties.


Above is a picture of the infamous Bescherelle, a reference book that has been used to torture generations and generations of pupils. And it is still in use today. There is a good reason for it. In my opinion, there is no way forward in French if you are not ready to reconcile yourself with conjugation and make it an ally on your language learning path.


I promise it is not that big a mountain. Check out the photo below.


This is a page chosen at random from the back of the Bescherelle. In that section, you will find a list of all existing French verbs. The numbers in red on the left-hand side of each column is a reference to the pattern that particular verb follows. Now, how many times can you see the number 7 on those two pages? That's the number of verbs you can conjugate when you know one conjugation pattern. And you can come across number 7 equally often on most other pages in that section.


Just last week, I saw the face of one of my students light up as we were going through some conjugation patterns. She exclaimed. "Why did no one ever explain this to me? It makes sense. It is easy." She went on to say that she actually enjoyed studying verbs with me. She walked out of the class feeling empowered.


Would you like to have that feeling too? Get in touch. I would be happy to help you too.

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