Japanese has 2 types of verbs, in terms of how the stems are formed ("u-verbs" and "ru-verbs"). When I was studying Japanese, my learning materials used 2 regular verbs for most of the examples: "hanasu" and "taberu". I think this was done deliberately and not lazily. To this day, if I ever doubt myself on a conjugation, I mentally think about how I would conjugate one of these two words, and just substitute the different verb stem. So they are like my personal template verbs. Japanese verbs are nearly perfectly regular, though. Any others would do nearly as well, but these are slightly nice for being two syllable stems, being very common words, and sounding different from each other. Bad examples for this would be "iru" (u-verb) and "iru" (ru-verb)!

So I just started French and it seems we have 3 types of verbs, plus a bunch of irregular verbs. I will just have to learn the irregular verbs. But for the regular verbs, what would be 3 nice, common, regular verbs from group 1, 2, and 3? Are there pedagogically canonical ones?

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    The reference for verbs is the "bescherelle". You've got a list of verb in it which are link to how they should be use depending of the tense. Jul 8 '19 at 9:00

Here's a chart I made for my students that shows and explains some of the most common conjugations across three groups + an irregular verb. I'll include a screenshot of the first part.

les temps les plus fréquents

Here are a few reasons why I chose these verbs (marcher, finir, rendre).

  • They're completely regular – this chart is not meant to show the exceptions to the rules, just to be a quick reference for 90% of cases.

  • They're pretty common verbs for young learners. They need to be told to marcher and they always have to finir and rendre their homework :)

  • I avoided repeating letters close to the ending. For example, parler is a good common verb for group 1, but I decided to avoid it because where the "r" falls is a good clue for some conjugations, like the futur simple. Similarly, choisir would be a bad choice for group 2, because students already have a hard enough time with the "iss" part without another "s" in there.

  • I chose an "re" ending for group 3 because "ir" looks too much like the typical group 2 verb.

  • I chose aller for the irregular example so it could double as the futur proche conjugation table. For that reason, avoir would have been useful too for the passé composé.

  • I would like to add that personally I think it's wrong to treat "rendre" as its own group. While the first two groups each include hundreds of words, the third only has a few dozen. It's really just the largest irregular family. Jul 18 '19 at 0:11
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    @temporary_user_name True, though when Anglophones learn French, these are usually the three groups, for better or worse. I think one handy thing about using the rendre template is that the student learns to associate -u with the participe passé, which helps scoop up a bunch of high-frequency stragglers (venu, couru, pu, dû, voulu, vu, lu...)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 18 '19 at 0:16

Dans un Bescherelle (La Conjugaison pour tous, dictionnaire de 12 000 verbes, chez Hatier, un classique) on trouve un tableau récapitulatif au point 6 où l'on présente aimer (1er groupe), finir (2e groupe) et ouvrir (3e groupe ; on présente concurremment et partiellement dormir (ind. prés., imp. prés., part. passé), mettre (ind. prés.), vouloir (ind. prés., passé simple, subj. imparfait, infinitif), tenir (passé simple, subj. imparfait, part. passé), croire (infinitif) et absoudre/clore/écrire/mourir/prendre (part. passé) afin d'illustrer certaines particularités de la relation radical/affixe selon les modes/temps).


Group 1: - manger (typical) - nettoyer (good to memorize as a spelling exception for the "y" before the terminaison) - appeler/acheter

Group 2: - finir (this is usually the benchmark for checking if a verb belongs to group 2. Meaning that if a verb is conjugated like finir, then it is a group 2 verb. It's the only one I actually have memorized and its terminaisons can be applied to every group 2 verb, so I would say it's enough, but that's just me.)

Group 3: - aller - attendre - battre

I think those are pretty useful if you want to memorize just 3 verbs per group, but obviously there are more spelling differences and nuances depending on how the base form of the verb ends (for group 1 and 3).

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    Cool. I noticed "finir" being used a lot in teaching materials. By the way, what are the relative size or frequency of the 3 verb groups? Are any of the groups appearing particularly more often or more rarer than the others in common texts? Jul 6 '19 at 22:02
  • The nine most used verbs are avoir, être, aller, faire, pouvoir, voir, devoir, dire and venir. Most of them are very irregular.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 6 '19 at 23:10
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    All your group 1 verbs are exceptions to the rule (manger has the mangeons feature). I would suggest a different "typical" one before mentioning the exceptions! A common enough one is parler.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 7 '19 at 0:51
  • That's exactly the kind of thing that prompted me to ask here. It's not like "mangeons" is scary, and I have to learn the quirks eventually, but it's helpful to study the rule before the exception. To have a solid idea of what the "most typical" pattern is, I will use a word like "parler". Jul 7 '19 at 1:22
  • @BetterSense Finir instantly comes to mind if I have to name a group 2 verb. For group 3 I'd use prendre, it's the one children use to tell between "é" and "er". When they're not sure of a group 1 terminaison (because they sound the same), they'll use a group 3 verb instead. ("il a manger" ou "il a mangé"? Well, is it "il a prendre" or "il a pris"? "il a prendre" doesn't exist, so it's mangé. (I don't think that technique works for learners though ^^)) Jul 8 '19 at 7:56

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