Present Participle and Gerund in French

present participle and gerund in French

Table of content :

  1. Understanding the present participle in French
  2. How and when to use the French gerund

Understanding the present participle in French

Firstly, because it has no number or person marker, the French present participle is an impersonal verb mood.

For the structure, French present participles are equivalent to “verb + ing” in English. However, grammatically there are many differences between them.

How to form the French present participle

Now, you need to take the root of the nous form at the present tense in French then add the terminaison -ant as follows :

Regular verbs :

Infinitive Nous form at the present  Present participle
Aller Nous allons allant
Manger Nous mangeons mangeant
Prendre Nous prenons prenant
Devoir nous devons devant
Finir Nous finissons finissant

We have 3 exceptions : Être, avoir and savoir

Irregular verbs :

Infinitive Nous form Present participle
Avoir Nous avons Ayant
Etre Nous sommes Etant
Savoir Nous savons Sachant

Reflexive verbs :

  • Se lever = me levant / te levant / se levant / nous levant / vous levant / se levant
  • S’occuper = m’occupant / t’occupant / s’occupant, / nous occupant / vous occupant / s’occupant

When to use the present participle in French

Then, the present participle of a verb in French may be used with the preposition en to form a gerund. But when used without en, the present participle :

  1. can be used to express the –ing form of the verb in English ;
  2. modify a noun ;
  3. may also act as an adjective.

To better understand these, let’s see together some examples :

  • Connaissant bien la région, ils ont passé de bonnes vacances = Knowing the region well, they had a good holiday
  • Ayant soif, elle a commandé une limonade = Being thirsty, she ordered a lemonade
  • J’ai trouvé ce film très amusant (adj)= I found this movie very funny
  • Ses soeurs sont charmantes (adj) = Their sisters are charming

When the present participle is used as adjective, it agrees with the noun in gender and number.

present participle

How and when to use the French gerund

Now that we know how to form the participle, what is exactly the gerund ? Really useful, the gerund is invariable (except for the reflexive pronouns).

Forming the French gerund

Forming the gerund in French is simple. Once you have the present participle, you only need to add en before the verb.

You will find the same exceptions and rules as stated above. Easy !

  • parler > the gerund is en parlant
  • finir > en finissant
  • se lever > en se levant

Using the gerund in French

There are a few instead where the gerund comes in handy. We can use the gerund in French to express :

  1. a way, a manner
  2. simultaneous actions
  3. something contradictory (with tout + gerund)
  4. a condition

Next, let’s see some examples :

  • Il s’est coupé en cuisinant = He cut himself while cooking
  • Elle écoute de la musique en étudiant = She listens to music while studying
  • Tout en faisant un régime, je ne maigris pas = Despite a diet, I don’t lose weight
  • En vous levant tôt, vous serez à l’heure = By getting up early, you’ll be on time

For a summary of how participle and gerund forms are used, feel free to check Le Conjugueur.


To conclude, I really hope this article helps!

Remember, repetition is the key. And for a customized approach, do not hesitate to contact me. We’ll work together so that you can reach your goals.