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The verb is a word signifying affirmation; that is to say, it serves to express what we do or feel. Je suis heureux :

I am happy. Je punis les méchans ; I punish the wicked. Il est puni par son père ; he is punished by his father.

In the first example, I affirm that my state is that of happiness ; in the second, the pronoun I, which is the subject, or nominative, of the verb punish, does the action, the end of which is directed on the wicked, called, for that reason, the object or accusative of the verb; and in the third, he, which is the subject of is punished, suffers the effect or impression of the action done by the father.

There are five sorts of verbs ;

Les verbes actifs ;
Les verbes passifs ;
Les verbes neutres ;
Les verbes réfléchis;
Les verbes impersonnels ;

the active



An active or transitive verb expresses an action passing on, from the subject or nominative, to the object or accusative. A verb is known to be active, when you can put the name of a person or of a thing after it, without a preposition. To eat is active, because you can say, to eat an apple, to eat meat ; to see is also active, because we say, to see a man, a person, &c. ; but to think, to sleep, are not active, because, after to think, we must put the preposition of; to think of a person, of a thing; and because, after to sleep, we cannot put a noun substantive, to sleep a man, a thing.

The passive verb is that which expresses an action, received or suffered by the subject of the verb, and done by another; it may always be followed by the preposition de or par, by. Ex.

Les écoliers paresseux seront pu- idle scholars will be punished nis par leurs maitres ;

by their masters. Les gens vertueux sont estimés virtuous people are esteemed de tout le monde ;

by every body. The neuter verbs are of various sorts. They express an action which is not transitive, as, to sleep, to die, to linger ; or they require a preposition between them and the noun, I think of my father, we depend upon you. Ex. Il dort;

he sleeps. Il marche ;

he walks. Vous nuisez à ma réputatior.; you injure my character*,

The reflective verb expresses an action that returns to, or is reflected upon, him who does it t. It is conjugated with two pronouns. Ex. Elle se loue;

she praises herself. Je me trompe ;

I am mistaken. Nous nous dépêchons ; we make haste. See, page 170, fuller explanations on the reflective verb.

The impersonal verbs are used in the third person singular only. The pronoun il, which governs them, or is their subject, can never take the place of any noun. Ex. Il faut ;

it is necessary Il pleut;

it rains. Il convient ;

it is proper.


To conjugate verbs is to go through their different inflections or terminations, according to their moods, tenses, persons, and numbers.

* Some verbs are active in English and neuter in French, and vice persâ. This is one of the greatest difficulties learners have to encounter in studying French. See SUPPLEMENT.

+ These verbs have also frequently a meaning of reciprocity, as, ils se détestent, they hate each other.

Some verbs are regular, some are irregular, and some are defective.

A verb is regular, when it follows, in all its tenses and moods, all the terminations or forms which belong to one of the four conjugations

It is irregular when, in some of the tenses, it takes terminations or forms different from those which belong to the regular conjugations.

A verb is defective when it has not all the regular tenses, or when some of its tenses have not the usual number of persons.

There are auxiliary verbs, of which the principal are avoir, to have, and étre, to be. They serve to form those compound tenses, by means of which we are able to express more precisely the time at which the action took place. Devoir, aller, venir, pouvoir, may also be considered as auxiliary verbst.


Mood or mode, in the sense in which it is used here, is a grammatical term, which means the manner of affirming or denoting, by different inflections.

There are, in the French language, four moods, absolutely distinct from each other by their inflections, and other differences. These moods are denominated as follows:

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This mood is the root of the verb, and expresses the name of the action in an indefinite and indeterminate manner, without affirmation, and without any relation as to time, number, or person. Ex.

* See pages 136, 144, 149, 156, of the SUPPLEMENT.
+ See pages 116 and 120. See also the SUPPLEMENT.

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This mood is thus called, because it expresses affirmation; that is, serves to assert what is, was, or shall be done. Exo

J'écris une lettre ;
Il chante une chanson ;
Nous avons fini ;
Il viendra ce soir;
Quand il aura dîné;

I write a letter.
he sings a song.
we have done.
he will come this evening.
when he has dined.


The name which has been given to this mood is derived from a Latin word that signifies to command ; and the imperative is in fact but a manner of denoting, in the verbs, the action of commanding, entreating, praying, exhorting, and sometimes forbidding. Ex. Aimez Dieu;

love God. Servez-le fidèlement ; serve him faithfully. Ne méprisez pas les bons avis; do not despise good advice.

This mood has no first person in the singular, because it is impossible for a man to give command to himself; and if it has the first person plural, it is because we speak as much to others as to ourselves when we say, Evitons tout ce qui pourrait let us avoid every thing that offenser les autres ;

might offend others.

The second person singular and the first and second person plural admit of no pronouns before them; but the third, in both numbers, is always preceded by the pronoun il or elle, &c., and the conjunction que. Ex. Qu'ils parlent ;

let them speak. Qu'elles viennent ;

let them come.


The subjunctive mood may be defined, a manner of expressing the different tenses of the verb without any affirmation. In fact, the subjunctive never affirms; it is always preceded by, and subject to, a conjunction; and if it should be in a sentence containing an affirmation, that affirmation can only be expressed by the verb that precedes the subjunctive, the latter being used only to modify that affirmation. In the subsequent sentence,

Je travaille afin que vous vous reposiez; I work that you may rest,

the affirmation is only expressed by je travaille, I work ; and what follows only expresses the end which I propose by working, viz., to procure you some rest. Again, Je désire que vous fassiez votre I wish that you may do your devoir ;


I affirm that I wish ; but it is clear that there is no affirmation in the words, that you may do your duty; since I do not say that you do, that you have done, that you will do your duty; but only that I wish you may do it. My wish is not doubtful, but it is very doubtful whether you may do your duty; and therefore I make use of the subjunctive, which is the mood always employed to express doubt and indecision*.

will or


There are, strictly speaking, but three tenses in verbs ;


the past.

Le passé ;
Le présent ;
Le futur ;

the present.
the future.

* This is again a point on which the two languages, the French and the English, differ greatly.

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