Of all the verbs that the French language has to offer, prendre is one of the most often used and one of the most versatile. This verb has a lot of different meanings. The most basic and most common use translates to something like ‘to take’ or ‘to get’. This can refer to physical things like clothes, books and coffee as well as more abstract ideas like decisions and risks.
Qui a pris ma ceinture?
‘Who took my belt?’
Elle va prendre des risques.
‘She’s going to take a chance’
This verb comes up so often in French that you should be surprised if you don’t hear it. As such, we strongly recommend that you get familiar with the conjugation of prendre. Unfortunately, the verb can be a bit irregular. Thankfully, this article is here to make sure that you have a full understanding of it.
To start, let’s have an overview of the entire prendre conjugation for le présent (the present tense). The good news is that prendre is more regular than some of the other more common verbs in French. Thankfully, it is more consistent than either the conjugation of être or avoir. That being said, prendre is a verb you absolutely must know as it’s one of the most commonly used in the language.
|Je prends||I take/get||Nous prenons||We take/get|
|Tu prends||You take/get||Vous prenez||You take/get|
|Il prend||He takes/gets||Ils prennent||They take/get|
|Elle prend||She takes/gets||Elles prennent||They take/get|
|On prend||We get/one gets|
Je prends un raccourci
‘I’m taking a shortcut’
Est-ce que tu prends un jour de congé?
‘Are you taking a day off?’
Elle prend du sucre dans son café
‘She takes sugar in her coffee’
L’arbre prend feu
‘The tree catches fire’
Nous prenons du thé après chaque repas
‘We take/drink tea after every meal’
Vous prenez à droite
‘You turn right’
Elles prennent leur travail aux sérieux
‘They take their work seriously’
Ils prennent leur propre décisions
‘The make their own decisions’
When it comes to meaning, prendre is also extremely flexible. We’ve already mentioned the fact that it can mean ‘to take’. In addition, it can also mean ‘to catch’ ‘to drink’ ‘to turn’ ‘to pick’ or ‘to handle.’
As with the English ‘get’ and ‘take’ the verb prendre is one of the most commonly used and comes up in a wide variety of idiomatic expressions in French. This is one of the reasons it’s such an important word to know.
- prendre de l’avance ― to gain ground
- prendre du bon temps ― to have a good time, to have fun
- prendre du galon ― to get a promotion, to get ahead
- prendre de la hauteur ― to get some perspective
- prendre la mouche ― to get annoyed, to take offence
- prendre du poids ― to gain weight
- prendre de la vitesse ― to gain speed
“Prendre” Conjugation in the Imperfective Tense
The present tense is a great start for your French studies, but to truly master the conjugation, you’ll have to learn all the tenses. Let’s start with l’imparfait (the imperfective). This is the tense you would use to describe an ongoing action that happened in the past. Most often, this form is translated into English as ‘used to’ or ‘was/were.’
Here’s where things get easier. The verb prendre in the imparfait conjugates like any other verb in the imperfect. You simply use pren- as the base and attach the usual verb endings for l’imparfait.
Je prenais un raccourci
‘I was taking a shortcut’
Est-ce que tu prenais un jour de congé?
‘Were you taking a day off?’
Elle prenait du sucre dans son café
‘She used to take sugar in her coffee’
L’arbre prenait feu
‘The tree was catching fire’
Nous prenions du thé après chaque repas
‘We used to take/drink tea after every meal’
Vous preniez à droite
‘You were turning right’
Elles prenaient leur travail aux sérieux
‘They took their work seriously’
Ils prenaient leur propre décisions
‘The made their own decisions’
By this point you’ve got two tenses of prendre – the past and the present. So let’s add in the future! Le futur (the future tense) is used in almost the exact same way that it is in English. In order to form the future tense, the verb prendre takes the verbal stem prendr- and adds on the regular endings for the future.
Je prendrai un raccourci
‘I’ll take a shortcut’
Est-ce que tu prendras un jour de congé?
‘Will you take a day off?’
Elle prendra du sucre dans son café
‘She’ll take sugar in her coffee’
L’arbre prendra feu
‘The tree will catch fire’
Nous prendrons du thé après chaque repas
‘We’ll take tea after every meal’
Vous prendrez à droite
‘You’ll turn right’
Elles prendront leur travail aux sérieux
‘They will take their work seriously’
Ils prendront leur propre décisions
‘The will make their own decisions’
Now that we’ve discussed the present, past and future of prendre, you might be wondering what’s left. In terms of simple tenses, that leaves a verb form called le conditionnel (the conditional). The conditional is the form you need if you want to discuss what would be. The conditional form often comes along with the word si (if), but not always.
In order to form the conditional form, you use the same stem as the future tense ( prendr-) and simply affix the regular conditional endings. These endings are actually the same as the endings for l’imparfait from before. The only difference is the stem to which they are attached.
Je prendrais un raccourci
‘I’d take a shortcut’
Est-ce que tu prendrais un jour de congé?
‘Would you take a day off?’
Elle prendrait du sucre dans son café
‘She’d take sugar in her coffee’
L’arbre prendrait feu
‘The tree would catch fire’
Nous prendrions du thé après chaque repas
‘We’d take tea after every meal’
Vous prendriez à droite
‘You’d turn right’
Elles prendraient leur travail aux sérieux
‘They would take their work seriously’
Ils prendraient leur propre décisions
‘The would make their own decisions’
Now you should understand the four simple tenses of the prendre conjugation. For simple tenses, the verb stands by itself. Several other tenses, however, require an auxiliary verb/helping verb. Don’t get worried though, we’ll go through each one to make sure you understand.
The most important and most commonly used compound tense in French is the passé composé. This is used in the same way that English uses the simple past (e.g. he got, you took, they came). Generally speaking, verbs in this form describe a completed action that happened once.
The passé composé of any verb is conjugated with an auxiliary verb. For the verb prendre, we need avoir followed by the past participle pris. For the compound tenses, the auxiliary verb conjugates, but the verb pris does not.
J’ai pris un raccourci
‘I took a shortcut’
Est-ce que tu a pris un jour de congé?
‘Did you take a day off?’
Elle a pris du sucre dans son café
‘She took sugar in her coffee’
L’arbre a pris feu
‘The tree caught fire’
Nous avons pris du thé après le repas
‘We drank tea after the meal’
Vous avez pris à droite
‘You turned right’
Elles ont pris leur travail aux sérieux
‘They took their work seriously’
Ils ont pris leur propre décisions
‘The made their own decisions’
In French, we use le passé composé to talk about events that happened in the recent past. However, there is a seperate tense to talk about events in the more remote past. This form is known as le plus-que-parfait, which is often in English called the pluperfect.
So what does the term ‘remote past’ even mean? It’s a bit tricky, but we’ll explain. When we use the past tense, it’s to describe events that took place before the time we’re speaking. However, the pluperfect is used to talk about something that happened before something else. In English, this form includes the verb had and the past participle.
I was cycling to the cafe even though I had already drunk two espressos.
Before we left the temperature had dropped considerably.
In these sentences, you can see that the pluperfect is referring to something that happened even before something else. Generally, you can think of le plus-que-parfait as the tense that uses the verb had. Making the pluperfect in French is quite similar to the passé composé. You add the past participle pris to the helping verb avoir. This time though, the auxiliary avoir is conjugated in the imperfective.
J’avais pris un raccourci
‘I had taken a shortcut’
Est-ce que tu avais pris un jour de congé?
‘Had you taken a day off?’
Elle avait pris du sucre dans son café
‘She had taken sugar in her coffee’
L’arbre avait pris feu
‘The tree had caught fire’
Nous avions pris du thé
‘We had taken tea’
Vous aviez pris à droite
‘You had turned right’
Elles avaient pris leur travail aux sérieux
‘They had taken their work seriously’
Ils avaient pris leur propre décisions
‘The had made their own decisions’
The Conjugation of “Prendre” in The Near Future
In French, there are two future tenses that are commonly used. We’ve already shown you le futur simple (the simple future) of prendre. However, French also uses a compound future tense to make the near future/ le futur proche.
This is used to discuss events in the near future and translates to the idea of ‘going to’ in English. Likewise, it’s formed with the verb ‘to go’ aller and the infinitive. As with the passé composé and le plus-que-parfait, only the helping verb conjugates.
- Je vais prendre…
‘I’m going to take/to get…’
- Tu vas prendre…
‘You’re going to take/to get…’
- Il/Elle va prendre…
‘S/he’s going to take/to get…’
- Nous allons prendre…
‘We’re going to take/to get…’
- Vous allez prendre…
‘You’re going to take/to get…’
- Ils/Elles vont prendre…
‘They’re going to take/to get…’
Up to this point, all the forms that we’ve discussed are somewhat definitive. The past happened and the future will happen, but what about what may happen? For this, French uses the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive isn’t actually a tense. Really, it’s a verb form used to express doubt, possibility, requests and uncertainty in a given situation. Verbs in the subjunctive very often (although not always) come after the conjunction que.
If you’re not already familiar with le subjonctif, we recommend that you read more about it here for a deeper understanding.
To give you a better understanding, we’ve laid out the conjugation of prendre for the subjunctive mood in the table below:
|(que) je prenne||(that) I take/get||(que) nous prenions||(that) we take/get|
|(que) tu prennes||(that) you take/get||(que) vous preniez||(that) you take/get|
|(que) il prenne||(that) he takes/gets||(que) ils prennent||(that) they take/get|
|(que) elle prenne||(that) she takes/gets||(que) elles prennent||(that) they take/get|
|(que) on prenne||(that) we are/one takes/gets|
Here are some examples of prendre in the subjunctive to give you a better understanding.
Il faut que je prenne un raccourci
‘I have to take a shortcut’
(It’s necessary that I do take a shortcut)
J’espère que tu prennes un jour de congé
‘I hope (that) you take a day off’
Quel dommage que l’arbre prenne feu
‘What a shame that the tree is catching fire’
Il veut que nous prenions du thé
‘He wants us to take some tea’
Il demande que vous preniez à droite
‘He asks that you turn right’
Elle doute qu’ils prennent leur travail aux sérieux
‘She doubts (that) they’re taking their work seriously’
Now that we’ve gone over the indicative and the subjunctive moods, it’s time for the last important form of prendre – the imperative. The form known as l’impératif is used to make commands or suggestions. Luckily, there are no new forms to learn, since the imperative of prendre matches its forms in the present tense.
(to one individual)
Prenons l’exemple des coraux
‘let’s take coral as an example’
(let’s take the example of coral)
Prenez des vacances
‘take a vacation’
There’s a lot to learn for a verb like prendre. You’ll encounter the word in nearly every French interaction you’ll have. Moreover, prendre is used in a lot of different expressions and idioms so it’s important to know its conjugation inside and out. Try to learn each use of prendre in its own context and understand that the verb has a lot of different meanings and functions. And of course, good luck!
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