You don’t have to study French for very long to know how difficult and unpredictable the verbs can often be. The verb faire is a very irregular verb that is also essential to know in French.
The verb faire is very versatile and has a lot of meanings. Most often it means ‘to do’ or ‘to make’, but it has several other meanings. This verb comes up a lot in French is one that you will use a lot and need to know. While the verb is one of the most common in French, the faire conjugation is also quite irregular.
First off, let’s see what the faire conjugation looks like in le présent (the present tense). The good news is that this is the most irregular form of the faire conjugation so they get easier from here.
|Je fais||I make/do||Nous faisons||We make/do|
|Tu fais||You make/do||Vous faites||You make/do|
|Il fait||He makes/does||Ils font||They make/do|
|Elle fait||She makes/does||Elles font||They make/do|
|On fait||We are/one makes|
While the faire conjugation can be a bit tricky, it’s less complicated than the être or avoir conjugation. That being said, this is a must-know verb in French since it’s one of the most commonly used verbs in the language. Generally, you can use the verb faire in the same way you would use ‘do’ or ‘make’ in English.
Je fais la vaisselle
‘I’m doing the washing’
Qu’est-ce que tu fais?
‘What are you doing?’
Elle fait une erreur
‘She’s making a mistake’
Il fait le lit
‘He makes the bed’
Les choix que nous faisons
‘The choices (that) we make’
Vous faites la conversation
‘You do the talking/make conversation’
Elles font des affaires à Moscou
‘They’re doing business in Moscow’
While faire can mean ‘to do’ or ‘to make’ in most situations, it also has many other uses that include weather, quotations, causation and making people do things. Likewise, there are a lot of set expressions that utilize the faire conjugation.
One of the most common uses of the verb faire is for describing the weather. When doing so, the verb is always paired with the personal il and conjugated for the third person singular.
Il fait du soleil aujourd’hui
‘It’s sunny today’
Il fait toujours beau ici
‘The weather’s always great here’
Il fait chaud dehors
‘It’s cold outside’
The verb faire can also be used to when quoting or reporting what others say. You can often see faire in the passé simple in books when characters have dialogue.
Je suis ici, fit-elle
‘I’m here, she said’
You can also use it take about the sounds animals make.
Le chat fait miaou
‘The cat says/goes meow’
You can also utilize faire the same way you do in English when talking about ‘making’ or causing someone to do something. For this, the verb faire conjugates normally and the following verb will be in the infinitive.
Cette chanson m’a fait pleurer
‘This song made me cry’
Elle fait sourire le personnel
‘She makes the staff smile’
Vous le faites rire
‘You make him laugh’
While the present tense is good to know, you’ll most likely want to discuss other time periods. And if you want to discuss an ongoing action that has already come to an end, you’ll need l’imparfait (the imperfective). You’ll need this in order to talk about continuous events in the past. This form usually translates to ‘used to’ or ‘was/were.’ Putting the verb faire in the imperfect is particularly useful when you want to talk about how the weather was during an event or and action you used to do regularly.
Thankfully, in the imparfait, the conjugation of faire is very regular compared to its present tense. In the imparfait, faire conjugates like most imperfective verbs using fais– as a base.
Je faisais la vaisselle
‘I was doing the washing’
Qu’est-ce que tu faisais?
‘What were you doing?’
Il faisait le lit
‘He was making the bed’
Il faisait beau
‘The weather was great’
Nous faisions des progrès
‘We were making progress’
Vous faisiez la conversation
‘You were doing the talking / making conversation’
Elles faisaient des affaires à Moscou
‘They were doing business in Moscow’
Now that you can talk about things in the present and the past, let’s get to the future. In order to form the future tense, the faire conjugation uses the verb stem fer- and adds on the regular endings. The future tense of faire actually looks identical to the future tense of être if you swap out the s- at the beginning for f-.
Je ferai la vaisselle
‘I will do the washing’
Qu’est-ce que tu feras?
‘What will you do?’
Elle fera une erreur
‘She will make a mistake’
Il fera le lit
‘He will make the bed’
Nous ferons des progrès
‘We will make progress’
Vous ferez la conversation
‘You will do the talking / make conversation’
Elles feront des affaires à Moscou
‘They will do business in Moscow’
When you want to talk about what would be, French uses a different verb form called le conditionnel (the conditional). This often comes along with the word si (if), but not always. For the conditional form you use the same fer- as the future and simply affix the regular conditional endings. These endings are actually the same as the endings for l’imparfait, but attached to a different verb stem.
Je ferais la vaisselle si…
‘I would do the washing if…’
Qu’est-ce que tu ferais?
‘What would you do ?’
Elle ferait une erreur
‘She would make a mistake’
Il ferait le lit si…
‘He will make the bed if…’
Nous ferions des progrès
‘We would make progress’
Vous feriez la conversation
‘You would do the talking/make conversation’
Elles feraient des affaires à Moscou si…
‘They’re would do business in Moscow if…’
So far, we’ve only gone over the four simple tenses of the faire conjugation. For each of these, the verb stands by itself. However, there are several other tenses that use an auxiliary verb/helping verb to make another tense. We’ll go over each one in detail.
The most important compound tense in French is the passé composé. This is used to talk about past events, the same way that English uses the simple past (e.g. he went, you said, they came) These are normally events that happened one time. The passé composé of the verb faire is conjugated using the auxiliary verb avoir followed by the past participle of faire – fait. For the compound tenses, the auxiliary verb conjugates, but the verb faire does not.
J’ai fait la vaiselle
I did the washing
Qu’est-ce que tu as fait?
What did you do?
Il a fait le lit
He made the bed
Elle a fait une erreur
She made a mistake
Nous avons fait des progrès
We made progress
Vous avez fait la conversation
You made conversation
Elles ont fait des affaires à Moscou
They did business in Moscow
Using the passé composé lets people talk about events that happened in the recent past. However, the French language has another tense to talk about events in the more distant past. This from is known as le plus-que-parfait, which is sometimes also called the pluperfect.
If you’re not a huge grammatical nerd, don’t worry. We’ll lay out exactly what the pluperfect actually is. This tense refers to an event that happened in a more distant past. In English if you talk about something in the past and need to refer to something happening before that, then you use the pluperfect. Normally this includes the verb had.
I was cycling to the cafe even though I had already drunk two espressos.
In this sentence, was cycling refers to the near past, while had drunk refers to something even earlier than the act of cycling. Generally, you can think of le plus-que-parfait as the tense that uses the verb had. In order to make the pluperfect in French, you just add the past participle fait to the helping verb avoir conjugated in the imperfective. Some forms of it with the verb faire are below.
J’avais fait la vaiselle
I had done the washing
Qu’est-ce que tu avais fait?
What had you done?
Il avait fait le lit
He had made the bed
Elle avait fait une erreur
She had made a mistake
Nous avions fait des progrès
We had made progress
Vous aviez fait la conversation
You had made conversation
Elles avaient fait des affaires à Moscou
They had done business in Moscow
In addition to le futur simple (the simple future), French also uses a compound future tense with the verb aller (to go) and the infinitive. This is used to discuss events in the near future and translates to idea of ‘going to’ in English. As with the passé composé and le plus-que-parfait, only the helping verb conjugates. Instead of using a participle though, the verb faire stays in the infinitive.
- Je vais faire…
I’m going to make/to do…
- Tu vas faire…
You’re going to make/to do….
- Il/Elle va faire…
S/he’s going to make/to do…
- Nous allons faire….
We’re going to make/to do…
- Vous allez faire….
You’re going to make/to do….
- Ils/Elles vont faire…
They’re going to make/to do…
In addition to the verb forms we’ve already gone over, French also uses the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive isn’t actually a tense, but a specific form used to express doubt, possibility, requests and uncertainty in a given situation. Very often (although not always) verbs in the subjunctive come after the conjunction que. If you’d like to get a deeper and more in depth explanation on the subjunctive mood, you can read more about it here.
So we’ve laid out the conjugation of faire in the subjunctive mood in the table below:
|(que) je fasse||(that) I do/make||(que) nous fassions||(that) we do/make|
|(que) tu fasses||(that) you do/make||(que) vous fassiez||(that) you do/make|
|(que) il fasse||(that) he does/makes||(que) ils fassent||(that) they do/make|
|(que) elle fasse||(that) she does/makes||(que) elles fassent||(that) they do/make|
|(que) on fasse||(that) we are/one does/makes|
Il faut que je fasse quelque chose
I have to do something
(It’s necessary that I do something)
J’espère que tu fasses attention
I hope (that) you pay attention
Il veut qu’elle fasse une pause
He wants her to take a break
(He wants that she takes a break)
Quel dommage que nous le fassions ici
What a shame that we’re doing it here
Il demande que vous fassiez le lit
He asks that you make the bed
Elle doute qu’ils fassent des progrès
She doubts (that) they’re making progress
Now that you know the indicative and the subjunctive mood, you should also know how to use faire in its imperative forms. These are used to make commands and suggestions in a group. Thankfully, there are only three command forms to learn, so it’s not a difficult structure to master.
‘Do this/that’ (to one person)
Faisons partie du club
‘Let’s be part of the club’
So there you have it – everything you need really need to know about the verb faire and its most important conjugations. With this, you should be able to handle the faire conjugation in its most commonly seen forms. While there are other verb constructions that use the verb faire, the ones explained here are the basis of every day French. It may seem like a big undertaking but you’ll be able to see the results after a bit of practice.
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