The French verb “voir” isn’t as difficult to master as you might think, but “il faut le voir pour le croire” (you have to see it to believe it!) It’s an everyday verb that is used predominantly to talk about sight. That said, it can also be a useful verb to know in other contexts, such as to express understanding, to talk about past experiences and even to arrange meeting up with people. It’s very important to learn the “voir” conjugation not only so that you can use this verb effortlessly, but also to help you understand the many other verbs that end with “voir”. Once you’ve got the hang of this verb, the rest will be easier to grasp.
1. For sight
- Je vois une voiture là bas – I see a car over there
2. To show understanding
- Je vois ce que tu veux dire – I see what you’re saying (literally: I see what you want to say)
3. For meeting up with people
- Je vois ma tante toutes les deux semaines – I see my aunt every two weeks
4. For experiences
- J’ai vu deux guerres mondiales – I’ve lived through two world wars
The verb “voir” itself doesn’t have a whole lot of meanings, but it can be paired with various other verbs to create a new meaning, which we’ll take a look at below.
|Je vois||I see|
|Tu vois||You see|
|Il/elle voit||He/she/it sees|
|Nous voyons||We see|
|Vous voyez||You see (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles voient||They see|
- Est-ce que tu me vois ? – Can you see me?
- Nous voyons des manifestations toutes les semaines – We’re seeing protests every week
- Elles ne voient pas le danger – They don’t see the danger
|Je voyais||I used to see|
|Tu voyais||You used to see|
|Il/elle voyait||He/she/it used to see|
|Nous voyions||We used to see|
|Vous voyiez||You used to see (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles voyaient||They used to see|
The imperfect tense with “voir” is used to talk about past habits or regular occurrences in the past.
- Elle voyait sa grand-mère tous les jours – She used to see her grandmother every day
- Nous voyions le coucher du soleil à partir de notre balcon – We used to see the sunset from our balcony
|J’ai vu||I saw|
|Tu as vu||You saw|
|Il/elle a vu||He/she/it saw|
|Nous avons vu||We saw|
|Vous avez vu||You saw (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles ont vu||They saw|
The passé composé of “voir” is used for anything that has already happened and finished, and also things relevant to the present, similar to “have seen”. To use this tense, simply take the verb “avoir”, conjugate it according to the subject, and add the past participle of the verb, which in this case is “vu”.
- Elle a vu un oiseau multicolore – She saw a multicolored bird
- Je l’ai vu avec mes propres yeux – I saw it with my own eyes
- Nous avons vu pire – We’ve seen worse
- Vous avez tous vu les conséquences de vos actions- You have all seen the consequences of your actions
- Il a vu l’arrivé d’Internet – He has seen (lived through) the arrival of the Internet
|Je verrai||I will see|
|Tu verras||You will see|
|Il/elle verra||He/she/it will see|
|Nous verrons||We will see|
|Vous verrez||You will see (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles verront||They will see|
Just like in the English language, we can use the simple future of the “voir” conjugation as a sentence on its own. The meaning can be interpreted in several different ways; it could sound hopeful, promising or even threatening, depending on the tone and the context. The subject “on” meaning one is often used with this tense to say “we’ll see”.
- “Maman, je peux aller à la fête foraine ce week-end ?” – Mom, can we go to the funfair this weekend?
“Je ne sais pas encore, on verra” – I don’t know yet, we’ll see
- Tout va bien se passer, tu verras – Everything will be alright, you’ll see
- Dis ça encore une fois et tu verras ce que je sais faire – Say that one more time and you’ll see what I can do (threatening)
|Je vais voir||I’m going to see|
|Tu vas voir||You’re going to see|
|Il/elle va voir||He/she/it is going to see|
|Nous allons voir||We’re going to see|
|Vous allez voir||You’re going to see (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles vont voir||They’re going to see|
This tense is used with the verb “aller” to talk about things that you have planned to see or do.
- Je vais voir le spectacle à Barcelone – I’m going to see the show in Barcelona
- Vous allez voir vos amis pendant les vacances – You’re going to see your friends during the vacation
- Il ne va pas voir sa famille avant qu’il parte – He’s not going to see his family before he leaves
|J’avais vu||I had seen|
|Tu avais vu||You had seen|
|Il/elle avait vu||He/she/it had seen|
|Nous avions vu||We had seen|
|Vous aviez vu||You had seen (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles avaient vu||They had seen|
This tense is used to talk about a past action that happened before another moment in the past. Each sentence therefore requires another past tense, either le passé composé or l’imparfait, as well as the plus-que-parfait.
- Ma soeur m’a dit que tu l’avais vu – My sister said that you had seen her
- Vous vouliez me dire ce que vous aviez vu – You wanted to tell me what you had seen
- Je pensais qu’elle avait déjà vu ce film – I thought she had already seen this film
|Je verrais||I would see|
|Tu verrais||You would see|
|Il/elle verrait||He/she/it would see|
|Nous verrions||We would see|
|Vous verriez||You would see (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles verraient||They would see|
- Elle est trop timide, je ne la verrais pas faire ça – She’s too shy, I can’t see her doing that (literally: I wouldn’t see her do that)
- Il verrait plutôt la table devant le canapé – He imagined the table in front of the sofa instead (literally: he would see the table in front of the sofa instead)
- Tu nous as promis que nous verrions le concert – You promised us we would see the concert
|J’aurais vu||I would have seen|
|Tu aurais vu||You would have seen|
|Il/elle aurait vu||He/she/it would have seen|
|Nous aurions vu||We would have seen|
|Vous auriez vu||You would have seen (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles auraient vu||They would have seen|
- J’aurais vu le problème de suite si j’avais été la – I’d have seen the problem straight away if I had been there
- Elle aurait vu le message si elle avait lu ses mails – She’d have seen the message if she’d read her emails
- Si vous aviez fait plus attention, vous auriez vu le bus arriver – If you’d have been paying more attention, you’d have seen the bus coming
|J’aurai vu||I will have seen|
|Tu auras vu||You will have seen|
|Il/elle aura vu||He/she/it will have seen|
|Nous aurons vu||We will have seen|
|Vous aurez vu||You will have seen (formal/plural)|
|Ils/elles auront vu||They will have seen|
- J’aurai 30 ans quand j’aurai vu 4 matchs de coupe du monde en direct – When I will have seen 4 World Cup matches live, I’ll be 30 years old
- En 2030 les adultes n’auront jamais vu une monde sans téléphone portable – In 2030 adults won’t have known a world without cell phones
This future conditional tense is something that we don’t often use in English, as it can easily be replaced by the present perfect tense, without losing its meaning:
- Je partirai une fois que j’aurai vu que tout se passe bien – I’ll leave once I’ve seen that everything’s running smoothly
Voir Conjugation in the Imperative (l’imperatif)
If you want to tell someone what to do, whether you’re the boss or you’re just a little bossy, you need to use the imperative tense to give orders and make suggestions. The French imperative tense can only be used in the second person singular (tu), the first and second plural (nous/vous). However, subject pronouns are not used with the imperative.
So, for the verb voir, only the following imperative verbs can be used:
- (tu) vois
- (nous) voyons
- (vous) voyez
- Vois avec ton père – See what your father says (literally: see with your father)
- Voyez si vous avez besoin d’autres choses – See if you need anything else
- Voyons ensembles – Let’s take a look together
- D’abord, voyons si ça marche – First, let’s see if it works
Admittedly, the imperative is more commonly used with other verbs, as we’re about to see…
The French expression “aller voir” is exactly the same in meaning as its English counterpart: go and see (or as it’s often used in spoken English: “go see”). The first verb is conjugated in any tense while voir is not.
- Va voir ce que ce passe – Go and see what’s happening
- Je vais aller le voir demain – I’m going to go and see him tomorrow
- Allez voir mamie – Go and see Grandma
- Allons voir le cirque – Let’s go and see the circus
This phrasal verb is used to say “show me”, just as we might say “let me see”.
- Fais voir tes devoirs – Let me see your homework
- Il va nous faire voir sa nouvelle voiture – He’s going to show us his new car
- Nous faisons voir le château aux invités – We show the castle to guests
The verbs come and see when put together make a nice little phrase that is often used as an order, be it strict or casual.
- Coucou mon chou, viens voir maman ! – Hello sweetie, come and see mommy !
- Venez me voir dans mon bureau à 14h – Come and see me in my office at 2pm
- Ils sont venus te voir mais tu n’étais pas disponible – They came to see you, but you weren’t available
We can also inverse the verbs “voir” and “venir” to change the meaning completely. Rather than “come and see”, it now means “to see coming”.
- Il est parti car il nous a vu venir – He left because he saw us coming
- Elles ont rangé leur chambre, elles ont dû me voir venir – They tidied their room, they must’ve seen me coming
It can sometimes be tricky to know when to use the voir conjugation and when to use the verb regarder, but it’s actually way more simple than you think!
An involuntary action, something that is in your eyeline whether you were looking for it or not.
- Quand j’étais en Espagne, j’ai vu la mer – When I was in Spain, I saw the sea
A voluntary action, something you watched intentionally
- Je regarde la mer car ça m’apaise – I watch the sea because it soothes me
This verbe pronominal or reflexive verb has the same meaning as the verb voir, but with an added reflexive pronoun as the object of the sentence, for example doing the action to yourself.
- Un touriste s’est vu voler son portefeuille – A tourist had his wallet stolen (Literally: A tourist saw his wallet stolen from himself)
- Je me voyais attaqué par des guêpes – I was attacked by wasps (Literally: I saw myself attacked by wasps)
This is a vital verb to understand because it’s extremely common, in particular to mean “see each other”. It is usually used in the third person with “on” instead of “nous” for a more informal tone.
- On se voit ce soir a 19h – We’re seeing each other tonight at 7
- Ils se voient régulièrement – They see each other regularly
- On va se voir avant ton anniversaire ? – Will we see each other before your birthday?
- Elles se voient tous les jours – They see each other every day