French verb moods

If you’re a French student, you know that there are a few verb moods to worry about. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it seems!

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the different verb moods in French, and we’ll give you some tips on how to use them correctly. So sit back and relax – we’ve got everything under control! 😉

4 personal moods in French

There are four personal moods in French: the indicative, the subjunctive, the conditional, and the imperative. Each mood has a different function, and thus expresses different things.

  1. The indicative mood is used to express facts and opinions. It is the most common mood, and is used in nearly all everyday conversation.
  2. The subjunctive mood is used to express doubt, uncertainty, or wishes. It is often used in conjunction with the phrase « que » (that) and other locutions (bien que, il faut que…).
    You can also read this article on irregular verbs in the subjunctive.
  3. The conditional mood is used to express what would happen if something were true. It is frequently used to be polite.
    It is often used with the word « si » (if) in the sentence structure: Si + imparfait, alors + conditionnel
  4. The imperative mood is used to give commands, orders or advices. It is generally used with the form vous (you), but can also be used with other forms tu (you) and nous (we).
    Read this article if you want to know everything about the imperative.

3 impersonal moods in French

There are also three impersonal moods: the gerund, the infinitive and the participle.

The characteristic of an impersonal mode is that it is not possible to use personal subject pronouns, except for il/ce (he).
When I say: Il fait beau. I use an impersonal form. The il does not correspond to anything. It is only the grammatical subject.

Well, the gerund, infinitive and participle have the same characteristic. There are impersonal mood.

  1. The gerund mood is used to express the circumstances of the action of the main verb. These circumstances can be simultaneity, cause or manner, condition and opposition.
    You will find a complete article and a video that explains the gerund in detail.
  2. The infinitiv mood: very often students are surprised when I tell them that the infinitive is a mood. In fact, it is simply used to designate the verb without any conjugation.
  3. The participle mood is used to allow the verb to be used as an adjective and, of course, in the conjugation of all compound tenses.

Let’s talk about the tenses.

Difference between tense and mood in French?

The difference between the tense of a verb and the mood in the French conjugation is in the steps of each. We could say that :

  1. the mood of a verb is step #1
  2. and the verb tense is step #2.

When you speak, you will first choose the mood, then the tense.

  • Do you want to say something polite?
  • Step 1: You choose the conditional.
  • Step 2: in which tense.


  • Do you want to say something sure?
  • Step 1: You choose the indicative.
  • Step 2: And after, in which tense: présent, futur, passé composé…

and so on.

And then there is the question of the verb tense!

That’s why in each mood – the 7 moods – there are different tenses.
And some moods have many more tenses available than others.

For example:

  • In the indicative, you’ll find 4 simple and 4 compound tenses.
  • While in the conditional you will find only one simple and two compound tenses.

But don’t worry, not all the tenses of the French conjugation are used by the French! So you will never need to know them all.

Simple vs. compound tense in French conjugation

In all the moods, you will find two main categories of tenses:

  1. simple tenses
  2. compound tenses

The compound tenses are always composed of :

être (to be) or avoir (to have) + the past participle.

It is only the conjugation of être or avoir that will change.

💡Note: so you must know perfectly the conjugation of être and avoir!

Know that everything you have learned about the compound tense will work with all compound tenses:

  • the choice of être or avoir
  • past participle with final -e, -s, -es or nothing
  • the position of the negation words
  • the position of pronouns
  • everything!

And to help you master French conjugation, we have specially designed a course that explains everything. Check it out below:

French indicative tenses: present, future and imperfect

These three tenses of the indicative: the present, the future and the imperfect are very important to know perfectly.

Why are they important? Because then you can conjugate all the other tenses by knowing them.


  1. The present conditional?
  2. It is the basis of the future tense and the ending of the imperfect tense


  1. The present subjunctive?
  2. This is the basis for the present tense « ils » and the present tense endings of the verbs -er for je, tu, il/elle/on and ils. And it is like the imperfect tense for nous and vous.



That’s it for our quick tour of French verb moods!

As you can see, there are quite a few different ones to remember, but with a little practice you’ll be conjugating like a pro. And don’t forget – the best way to improve your French is to get out there and use it as much as possible!

Speaking with native speakers will help you learn all the nuances and subtleties of this beautiful language. So what are you waiting for? Bon courage et à bientôt !

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