I checked Dictionnaire de l'académie française, and found they don't show all conjugation when they explain être:

Je suis, tu es, il est ; nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont. J'étais. Je fus. J'ai été. Je serai. Je serais. Sois, soyez. Que je sois, que tu sois, qu'il soit ; que nous soyons, que vous soyez, qu'ils soient. Que je fusse. Que j'aie été. Que j'eusse été. Étant. Ayant été.

Why don't they show all of them?

  • 2
    The reason is to save space, first of all. A dictionary may include some grammar, but it's not a grammar book. To answer your question, let me draw your attention to the verb endings ("terminaisons"), which will have to be memorized. Once we know them, we can apply them to the verbs. For example, you found "Je fus". Let's get the remaining forms: fus, fut, fûmes, fûtes, furent. When it comes to "J'ai été", in order to get the rest of the forms, all you need to know is the conjugation of "avoir" in the simple present (présent de l'indicatif). Go on and get the rest for the 'Conditional'... – Sankarane Aug 23 '15 at 17:06
  • Note that Wiktionary (but not the wiktionnaire) usually include a full conjugation table, which it can afford to since it's online from the start. Most other dictionaries on the internet still function as the online version of a physical book and are thus limited by this primary medium. This is all the more true for the academy's dictionary which is very slow to update both in form and in content – Eau qui dort Jul 31 '19 at 11:15

It's because a dictionary does not have to show conjugation. It's purpose is to explain the meaning of the words and the correct spelling.

In French (i dunno for other languages) we differentiate spelling and grammar. If you want to see all the forms of a verb, you don't want to look into a dictionary but into a "conjugueur" (most known is the "Bescherelle").

There are tons of websites where you can find all the forms of a verb. Here's one with your example "être":


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The conjugated forms are not needed when you have learnt the patterns and the exceptions. In the mentioned case, only those forms that are exceptions from the normal pattern are printed, the remaining follow the rules.

For languages with many forms (French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, even Swedish! that uses one form/tense) there are special books on the market that are focused on listing all forms of verbs, e.g. "501 NNN Verbs: Fully Conjugated in All the Tenses" for a language. I have got some of these, but seldom use them for the reason above. There are some dictionaries, though, that do include lists of the most common irregular verbs with forms.

A dictionary deals with the meaning, spelling/variants, pronunciation and the usage of each word, and sometimes etymology.

NB. There is a tendency to simplify the use of languages with many forms, e.g. substituting with simpler forms or dropping word parts. English has undergone some already (I have, thou hast, he hath...), as has many European languages. Interlingua is basically free from personal verb forms, and still understandable for French, Spanish and Italian speakers.

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