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I am trying to learn the conjugation of French verbs. It is straight easy for the first and the second groups with verbs ending with -er and -ir respectively. However, I got confused when I tried to solve exercises with some verbs (from the first group), where the consonant letter is sometimes duplicated:

For example: The verb Feuilleter:

  • Je feuillette

  • tu feuillettes

  • il feuillette

  • nous feuilletons

  • vous feuilletez

  • ils feuillettent

So why is the t duplicated for je, tu, il, and ils? Is this related to the pronunciation of the word? Are there any verbs in the second group (-ir) with the same property?

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Feuilleter is what's known as a stem-changing verb. There are about 100 in French - they all end in -er, and they fall into several categories - some double the letter, some add or change an accent (e.g., lever - je lève), and some have a minor spelling change (nettoyer - je nettoie).

But for all of them, in the present tense, it's only the singular conjugations and the third-person plural that have this stem change. It is because of pronunciation: the stem change is required when the e in that syllable is pronounced [ɛ]. In the 1st and 2nd person plural, the e is pronounced [ə] and therefore there is no stem change.

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    Didn't some recent spelling reform allow using -ète(s/nt) instead of -ette(s/nt) for all but a handful of verbs? (Ah, it's mentioned in SwissFr's link: les rectifications orthographiques de 1990) – sumelic Dec 14 '15 at 18:20
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Yes it is related to the pronunciation of the word : "Feuilleter" follows the same rules than the verbs that end with "eler" and "eter".

In order to have the sound "è" the consonant "l" or "t" is doubled.

No verbs from the second group follows this rules.

Source : leconjugueur.lefigaro.fr

  • As mentioned by the given reference, there are two types of verbs in eler and eter, some with a duplicate consonant some with a grave accent. Feuilleter belongs to the duplicating class while acheter belongs to the accent class... – GAM PUB Dec 15 '15 at 9:16

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