Sign up ×
French Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the French language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Apparently gésir has an incomplete conjugation—it only works in the present tense. This confuses me. How would I say “I would lie down” or “I will lie down”, etc?

share|improve this question

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Gésir implies more than just lying down; the subject has to be incapacitated and not be able to move. It's mainly used on dead people's graves, where ci-gît stands for "here lies ..."

share|improve this answer

« Gésir » is also used at the imparfait. It will be strange if you use it for anything but dead, wounded or otherwise incapacitated persons or animals. « Être couché » is what is commonly used.

share|improve this answer

You can find all the common conjugations of gésir at le conjugueur. You have imparfait and present participle, too. As to I would lie down and its mates, I would use je serais couché, as in [se coucher].

Or you could innovate. Try j'aurais gési, je giserais

share|improve this answer
I'd have said j'aurais git et Claudel a utilisé il gira (cité par Grevisse, naturellement). – Un francophone May 28 '12 at 17:36
J'aurais git makes me think of VCS :p – Evpok May 28 '12 at 20:26

Defective verbs are common in French, for example, a simple verb such as DISTRAIRE (‘to entertain’) has no simple past (French speakers don't know the forms), CLORE (‘to close’) is not used in present indicative 1pl and 2pl (even though, everyone knows the forms would be closons and closez).

In the case of GESIR, actually the infinitive you mentionned to designate the verb, is never used besides being the name of this verb.

share|improve this answer
Tu as oublié chaloir qui n'existe qu'à la troisième personne du singulier. Leconjuguer est même incapable de trouver un autre temps que le présent de l'indicatif pour ce verbe. :) – Chop Jun 18 at 8:25
Actually, there are dozens of defective verbs in French even among the relatively simple ones: FRIRE, BRAIRE, TRAIRE, ECLORE, ... and of course the remainder of times past: APPAROIR, ISSIR, ... – GAM PUB Jun 18 at 8:31
About the missing passé simple, there is a simple explanation: this tense is used for something that took place at a precise time in past. For descriptions or actions that occurred over a certain span of time, imparfait is the way to go. Among the verbs you quote, I cannot see a single one which describes an action happening at a specific moment. It makes them defective, true, but this is because French uses more tenses for past than English, and sometimes one of these tenses just doesn't make sense for a verb. – Chop Jun 18 at 8:46
@Chop Ok. More data: BRAIRE (‘to bray’) is defective and RUGIR (‘to roar’) is not ; ECLORE (‘to blossom’) is defective and BOURGEONNER (‘to sprout’) is not... These have very close lexical aspects. clore une conférence is actually something that takes place at a precise time and clore is defective for simple past. – GAM PUB Jun 18 at 8:55
You are right. Usage is such that most French people (me included) never even think of it. I found this page which contains interesting data. – Chop Jun 18 at 9:03

How to translate “I would lie down” or “I will lie down”?

The usual translations for “lying down” are “être couché” or “être allongé”.

As was previously said, “gésir” implies the subject is incapacitated. It is common to see it in epitaphs in the form “Ci-gît …”, meaning “Here lies …”


Définition : Être étendu, couché, sans pouvoir se mouvoir (par suite d'un malaise, d'une blessure, d'une maladie, ou de la mort). Être couché dans la tombe, être enterré.

Conjugaison : Gésir est un verbe défectif que l'on rencontre surtout au présent (je gis, tu gis, il gît, nous gisons, vous gisez, ils gisent), à l'imparfait (je gisais, etc.) et au participe présent (gisant, gisante). L’infinitif est encore employé.

Exemple : Vous semblez gésir côte à côté. (Georges Bernanos, Mauvais rêve, 1948)

— Source:

Why is “gésir” defective?

Because of their meaning, many verbs in French cannot be conjugated at all persons or tenses.

For example, French's passé simple is used to describe an action taking place at a specific moment in time. Imparfait is used for descriptions and actions occurring over a span of time. Both tenses are past simple in English. Thus, some verbs cannot be used with passé simple because they describe something which is not instantaneous or for which the time of occurring cannot be precisely defined.

Other defective verbs are just remnants from the past, used only in specific forms or expressions (“issir” is only used as a past participe “issu”). Accounting for those is difficult.

If you want some analogy with English, “to be born” can only be used in passive voice because the subject can only be the receiver of the action.

Here is an exhaustive list of defective French verbs.

Answer built upon the exchange with GAM PUB

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.