Almost all French verbs ending with -er are in the first conjugation class (i.e. are regular), with aller being an exception.

The English Wikipedia page on French verbs says that envoyer and renvoyer are irregular "by some accounts". What does this mean? Many resources don't list these words as exceptions at all.

Are there other verbs ending with -er that are irregular (and not commonly listed)?

There are some additional rules when conjugating verbs ending with -er. Some of them follow a logical rule. For example, when conjugating placer, the stem will alternate between plac- (e.g. place) and plaç- (e.g. plaçons), to ensure that the pronunciation of the stem won't change. For lever the rule is not obvious (lève vs. levez). How are these rules set apart from irregularities?

  • 2
    Because of y changes to i. Il parle but il envoie, not il envoye. Ergo, there is a change you don't see in completely regular verbs the spelling of which doesn't change.
    – Lambie
    Nov 29, 2017 at 23:16

2 Answers 2


The definition of "irregularity" is not really fixed, it's kind of a pedagogical concept in my opinion.

"Envoyer" and "renvoyer" are likely mentioned as special cases because they have future stems that are distinct from their infinitive stems and that cannot be derived from them by any standard rule of French conjugation: "enverr-" and "renverr-". I don't know of any other -er verbs with multiple stems like this that cannot be derived via one of the standard stem-change rules ("aller" of course has a future stem that is entirely unpredictable from its other stems, but its present-tense conjugation is enough on its own to show that it is irregular in other ways than stem changes.)

The alternation between "e" or "é" and "è" may be considered regular because in standard French, it's phonologically impossible to have a sound like /ə/ or /e/ before a consonant followed by word-final "mute e". A French word can't have a pronunciation like */ləv(ə)/ or */sed(ə)/.

It is thus phonologically necessary for /e/ or /ə/ to be replaced with /ɛ/ in this context, and the standard way to represent the sound /ɛ/ in this position in French orthography is either "è" + consonant letter + "e" or "e" + double consonant letter + "e".

In the future and conditional of verbs like céder, the vowel does not come before word-final "mute e", so phonologically it is not so simple to predict whether /e/ will be replaced with /ɛ/. In fact, the use of /e/ vs. /ɛ/ in non-final syllables is rather variable/complicated in French, so the future of verbs like "considérer" can be written either as "considérera" etc. or "considèrera" (compare "événement/évènement"). But verbs like "lever" always are written with "è" in the future and conditional.

According to an article by ChloeF on FluentU, French verbs with infinitives in -oyer and -uyer always change to -oi- and -ui- before mute e (including in the future and conditional forms for verbs other than envoyer and renvoyer), while verbs with infinitives in -ayer (see the question on this site about essayer) may or may not change to -ai- : it's optional.

  • "Future stems that are distinct from their infinitive stems and that cannot be derived from them by any standard rule of French conjugation" Actually, the rule is just that the conjugation in the future and conditional is the same as voir (a good example of morphophonemic extension or contamination), because that is a much more common verb.
    – Circeus
    Nov 30, 2017 at 15:32

Envoyer ou renvoyer could be irregular because they are spelt j'envoie ou je renvoie in the present tense: the y is replaced by an i. All the verbs in -oyer must be deemed irregular then: dévoyer, chatoyer, soudoyer etc..

  • I think the categorization of "envoyer" and "renvoyer" as irregular may have to do with the future/conditional stems being "enverr-" and "renverr-" rather than "envoier-" and "renvoier-"
    – sumelic
    Nov 29, 2017 at 23:49

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