I am writing a French conjugation script. I want to add the voices active, passive and pronominal.

  1. The question is, which verbs can't be conjugated in a passive voice or/and a pronominal case.

I have found a long list with all verbs with a pronominal version, but for example the verb "monter" is missing, but I found online the conjugation for "se monter":


  1. I found out, that the most parts of verbs conjugated with the auxiliary verb être can't be conjugated in passive voice. But for example "provenir" is conjugated with the auxiliary verb être and has a passive voice like I found it on Cactus 2000. Do all verbs conjugated with the auxiliary verb avoir have a passive conjugated version?

  2. Maybe there are also verbs with can't be conjugated in an active voice.

  • 1
    I think that if one is not fluent in French, one should avoid this kind of exercise.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


These sources don't seem reliable to me. For example, a passive voice for provenir makes no sense whatsoever. Maybe these website automatically generate a passive / pronominal voice, maybe it's a mistake, but these simply don't work.

1/ Checking a 6 000-word list is a bit arduous and error-prone. We could correct it, give you other lists, but there is no recipe to know if a verb has a pronominal form or not, except checking a good dictionary / thesaurus / Bescherelle. So at some point, you need to decide which of your sources are more reliable than others, and trust them. For example, I wouldn't trust a german website which looks automatically generated over a human-generated french Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia list may miss some words, but at least it shouldn't be overzealous and list verbs as pronominal when they shouldn't.

2/ The passive voice works by inverting subject and object : "object is verbed by subject" instead of "subject verbs object". If a verb can't have an object, it can't have a passive voice. You need to check if a verb is transitive or not. There are three cases :

  • Directly transitive : verbs that need a direct object (complément d'objet direct / COD). These are the majority, and can use a passive voice.

  • Indirectly transitive: these verbs need an indirect object (complément d'objet indirect / COI), introduced by a preposition (like provenir : Le français provient du latin). They have no passive voice. This category is often agregated with the next, intransitive verbs, as it doesn't change much.

  • Intransitive : no object, no passive voice, like falloir. Actually many theoretically intransitive verbs are used with an object in some cases (il pleut des cordes, il faut du courage pour...), but they still don't have a passive voice. I found a list of intransitive verbs here.

3/ Some verbs are exclusively pronominal. Your Wikipedia list has a subsection for them, actually. There is no verb that is exclusively passive, though.

I don't know exactly how your script works, but to populate it you should try to find a source that gives you these kinds of attributes in addition to just listing words : groups, transitivity, pronominal form, etc can't be guessed easily, but a good dictionary provides them.

It's not in your question, but you will encounter this problem : the pronominal voice is often used instead of the passive. "Ça s'explique facilement" means "it's easily explained" instead of "it explains itself easily". And in many cases it is the only option one would use, or using the "normal" passive form doesn't mean the same thing. For example : "Ce problème s'explique par cette cause", the "pronominal passive" voice, means that the cause is the explanation for the problem ; whereas "Ce problème est expliqué par cette cause" would mean that the cause gives the explanation. Context can help the reader understand, obviously, but usage implies that these two forms have different meanings. And we tend to use this form even with verbs that shouldn't have a pronominal form : "Ce cheval se monte facilement", "this horse is easy to mount", is the only case where one would use se monter.

EDIT : following Law29's comment, I realised there is one more case where we use the pronominal voice : instead of [verb]ing one's [object], one [verbs] oneself the [object] : se cogner la tête instead of cogner sa tête. It's still a different case of the usual pronominal voice, as meaningwise it's more of an active voice in disguise.

  • Se monter la tête, se monter le bourrichon, but apart from that, rien à redire
    – Law29
    Apr 8, 2016 at 21:26
  • You're right, I edited to mention all the variations on se cogner la tête, se monter le bourrichon, se lécher les babines and other pronominal forms with an object. Apr 10, 2016 at 19:11
  • @DaWaaaaghBabal Thank you very much for you answer. Yes, my script has groups for transitivity etc. I have also the list from Wiktionary called 'verbes_exclusivement_pronominaux', but I forget this one. I have a list of transitives verbes, but I can't check 20 529 words, which one is directly transitive and which one is indirectly transitive. Maybe it is a hint, when a verb is transitive or intransitve like 'aimer.' In my conjugation script I will only conjugated the verbs without different objects.
    – Grischa
    Apr 10, 2016 at 21:55
  • @DaWaaaaghBabal Maybe you could join our chat about the script.
    – Grischa
    Apr 10, 2016 at 22:02
  • @DaWaaaaghBabal If a verb is conjugated with être it has either no passive voice, right?
    – Grischa
    Apr 16, 2016 at 10:11

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