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Cheers to That: The Must-Know Rules of the French “Boire” Conjugation

Whether you’re absolutely parched and desperate for a drink, or simply want to invite some friends over for a cold beverage on a hot summer’s afternoon, either way you’re going to need to use the same French verb: boire.

Boire means “to drink”. It is an irregular verb, as it does not follow the same rules and patterns as other verbs that finish in “-re”. You may notice some similarities between boire and other verbs ending in -oir and -oire, such as decevoir, concevoir and devoir, but it has many individualities meaning that it’s vital for you to learn the boire conjugation by heart. You may notice that this verb has not one but two different verb stems, changing from boi- to bu- depending on the person and the tense.

Boire Conjugation – Present Tense (le présent)

If you’re talking about your regular drinking habits, or something you’re drinking at this very moment in time, then you should use the present tense. There is only one French present tense to learn. While the singular forms of the verb may look familiar, you mustn’t confuse the boire conjugation with other -oir verbs which are very different in their plural forms, including voir and croire.

Je bois

I drink

Tu bois

You drink

Il/elle/on boit

He/she/it drinks

Nous buvons

We drink

Vous buvez

You drink (formal/plural)

Ils/elles boivent

They drink

  • Je bois du café tous les matins – I drink coffee every morning
  • Elle boit le vin que je lui ai offert pour son anniversaire – She’s drinking the wine that I gave her for her birthday
  • Nous ne buvons pas des sodas – We don’t drink sodas

Boire Conjugation – Imperfect Tense (l’imparfait)

If you’ve been learning French for a while, then you’re no doubt familiar with the imperfect endings already. These verb endings, no matter which verb you use them with, are always the same for each person. The stem for the verb “boire” in the imperfect tense is “buv-”.

Je buvais

I used to drink

Tu buvais

You used to drink

Il/elle/on buvait

He/she/it used to drink

Nous buvions

We used to drink

Vous buviez

You used to drink (formal/plural)

Ils/elles buvaient

They used to drink

  • Tu buvais plus d’eau quand tu faisais plus de sport – You used to drink more water when you did more exercise
  • Vous buviez des boissons énergétique avant des réunions pour ne pas s’endormir – You used to drink energy drinks before meetings so you didn’t fall asleep
  • Ils buvaient du thé vert lors de leurs voyages en Inde – They used to drink green tea during their trips to India

Boire Conjugation – Past Tense (le passé composé)

The past participle for the verb boire is short and simple: bu. Pair this with the verb avoir, conjugated in the present tense, and you have the French passé composé. It’s the tense that we must use for any simple past tense sentences.

J’ai bu

I drank

Tu as bu

You drank

Il/elle/on a bu

He/she/it drank

Nous avons bu

We drank

Vous avez bu

You drank (formal/plural)

Ils/elles ont bu

They drank

  • Il a bu du gel hydroalcoolique, il faut qu’on l’emmène à l’hôpital – He drank hand sanitizer, we have to take him to the hospital
  • Tu as bu toute la bouteille, tu m’étonnes que tu aies envie de faire pipi ! – You drank the whole bottle, no wonder you have to pee!
  • Nous avons bu un magnum ensemble, soit l’équivalent de 12 verres en tout – We drank a magnum between us, that’s equivalent to 12 glasses all together

Boire Conjugation – Future Tense (le futur simple)

We use the simple future tense to talk about most future situations. The stem of the verb boire for future conjugations is “boi-” and we must simply add the usual future endings.

Je boirai

I will drink

Tu boiras

You will drink

Il/elle boira

He/she/it will drink

Nous boirons

We will drink

Vous boirez

You will drink (formal/plural)

Ils/elles boiront

They will drink

  • Je boirai de la limonade car je n’aime pas le coca – I will drink lemonade because I don’t like cola
  • Elle boira quand elle aura soif – She will drink when she’s thirsty
  • Quand nous aurons fini nos examens, nous boirons à ça – When we finish our exams, we’ll drink to that

Boire Conjugation – Near Future (le futur proche)

The near future tense uses the present tense of the verb aller along with the infinitive verb. This tense is used for things that are about to happen in the immediate future.

Je vais boire

I am going to drink

Tu vas boire

You are going to drink

Il/elle va boire

He/she/it is going to drink

Nous allons boire

We are going to drink

Vous allez boire

You are going to drink (formal/plural)

Ils/elles vont boire

They are going to drink

  • Il ne va pas boire ça, il n’aime pas les jus de fruits – He’s not going to drink that, he doesn’t like fruit juice
  • Vous allez boire un coup maintenant que vous êtes là ? – Are you going to have a drink now that you’re here?
  • Elles vont boire un verre à la maison avant de rejoindre leurs amis – They’re going to have a drink at home before meeting their friends

Boire Conjugation – Pluperfect Tense (le plus-que-parfait)

The pluperfect tense shows that one action happened prior to another action, but both actions took place in the past. To form this tense, simply use the verb avoir in the imperfect, and add the past participle, which as we saw in the passé composé, is “bu”.

J’avais bu

I had drunk

Tu avais bu

You had drunk

Il/elle/on avait bu

He/she/it had drunk

Nous avions bu

We had drunk

Vous aviez bu

You had drunk (formal/plural)

Ils/elles avaient bu

They had drunk

  • J’avais bu une boisson avant la prise de sang car je ne savais pas qu’il fallait être à jeun – I had drunk a drink before my blood test because I didn’t know I had to fast
  • Elle avait bu tout le verre avant de se rendre compte que c’était le mien – She had drunk the whole glass before realizing it was mine
  • Nous avions bu plusieurs pintes de bière, mais nous n’étions pas encore ivres – We had drunk several pints of beer, but we still weren’t drunk

Boire Conjugation – Conditional Mood (le conditionnel présent)

The most commonly used form of the conditional is the conditional present. This is equivalent to the second conditional in English, in which part of the sentence is in the past tense and the second half of the sentence is in the conditional mood. In the French conditional, we pair it with the imperfect tense. We often use the conditional to talk about unlikely or unrealistic events. It is usually employed with a “si clause”, meaning a sentence with “if” to show that something will only happen if a particular condition is met. To form the conditional present, take the future stem and add the imperfect endings.

Je boirais

I would drink

Tu boirais

You would drink

Il/elle boirait

He/she/it would drink

Nous boirions

We would drink

Vous boiriez

You would drink (formal/plural)

Ils/elles boiraient

They would drink

  • Je boirais si j’avais quelque chose à boire – I would drink if I had something to drink
  • Tu boirais plus de thé si tu avais une bouilloire – You would drink more tea if you had a kettle
  • S’ils avaient soif, ils boiraientIf they were thirsty, they would drink

Expressions about drinking

When it comes to having a drink, there are a lot of French expressions that you could use to help you sound like a local.

Boire un coup – To have a drink (of alcohol)

Literal translation: To drink a drink

  • Allez, reste boire un coup avec tes potes – Go on, stay and have a drink with your buddies

Boire à grandes gorgées – To guzzle

Literal translation: To drink in large gulps

  • Il avait tellement soif qu’il a bu la bouteille à grandes gorgées – He was so thirsty that he guzzled the bottle

Boire à petites gorgées – To sip

Literal translation: To drink in small gulps

  • Quand on est malade il faut boire de l’eau à petites gorgées – When you’re sick you must sip water

Boire comme un trou – To drink like a fish

Literal translation: To drink like a hole

  • Il est habitué à boire de l’alcool, il boit comme un trou – He’s used to drinking alcohol, he drinks like a fish

Boire le coup de l’étrier – To have one for the road

Literal translation: To drink the drink of the stirrup

  • Je dois bientôt partir, buvons le coup de l’étrier – I have to leave soon, let’s have one for the road

Idioms that use the verb “boire”

While all of the previous expressions were related to drinking, the following expressions are completely figurative and therefore have nothing to do with actual drinking. If you manage to slip an idiom into a conversation, it will help you take your French speaking skills to the next level.

Boire du petit-lait – To lap it up

Literal translation: To drink whey

  • Il a gagné l’élection et il buvait du petit-lait – He won the election and was lapping it up

Boire les paroles de quelqu’un – To hang on somebody’s every word

Literal translation: To drink the words of somebody

  • Pendant le discours de son acteur préféré, elle a bu ses paroles – During her favorite actor’s speech, she hung on his every word

Ce n’est pas la mer à boireIt’s not that much to ask

Literal translation: It’s not the sea to drink

  • Je veux juste que tu m’aides à faire le ménage, ce n’est pas la mer à boire ! – I just want you to help me do the chores, it’s not that much to ask!

Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boireOnce you start something, you have to finish it

Literal translation: When the wine is drawn, you must drink it

  • Je comptais partir mais hélas, quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire – I was planning on leaving but alas, once you start something you have to finish it

Y avoir à boire et à manger – To be a mixed bag

Literal translation: To have something to drink and to eat

  • Les propositions étaient variées, il y avait à boire et à manger – The proposals were varied, there was a mixed bag

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

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