In our previous lesson, we covered the passé composé of first-group verbs, or -er verbs. In this lesson, we’ll explore second-group verbs, or verbs whose infinitives end in -ir.
To make it easier to conjugate verbs, French grammarians divided them into three groups according to their infinitive endings. This broad classification also helps you determine their past participles, so it is worth noting which group a verb belongs to.
First-group or -er verbs: past participle -é
Second-group or -ir verbs: past participle -i
Third-group or -re, -oir, and irregular -ir verbs: past participle -u
Regular -ir verbs belong to the second-largest group of verbs in French. Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern, making them easier to conjugate than irregular verbs, which have their quirks.
Second-group -ir verbs follow the same basic rules as -er verbs in the passé composé, combining the auxiliaries avoir or être with the past participle.
The main difference is that the past participle of regular -ir verbs ends in -i instead of -é.
For example, to form the past participle of finir (to finish), take out the r in finir and voilà! You have the past participle fini!
Après la mort de papa,
After dad's death,
elle a fini ses études
she finished her studies
Captions 7-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père n'est pas mortPlay Caption
Interestingly, the expression finir par in the passé composé doesn’t mean to finish something. Instead, it describes an outcome, something that eventually happened or ended up happening:
Elle a gagné et j'ai fini par être chanteuse
It won and I ended up being a singer
Caption 13, Watt’s In - Indila : Dernière Danse Interview ExluPlay Caption
In any case, finir is a typical second-group verb that is handy to know, as you will be able to use it as a model to conjugate other similar verbs, like choisir (to choose):
Nous avons choisi de passer une semaine sur place à Aulnay.
We chose to spend a week on-site in Aulnay.
Caption 9, Banlieues françaises - jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation?Play Caption
When describing where you grew up, you'll use the passé composé of the verb grandir:
J'ai grandi là.
I grew up here.
Caption 34, Actu Vingtième - Fête du quartier Python-DuvernoisPlay Caption
As you can see, conjugating second-group verbs in the passé composé is quite straightforward since they are regular verbs.
Another thing worth noting is that in addition to being recognizable by their past participles, second-group verbs can also be classified by their present participles, which end in -issant: finissant (finishing), choisissant (choosing), grandissant (growing up), etc. This information will prove useful when you learn about irregular -ir verbs belonging to the third group.
So, nous n'avons pas encore fini (we haven't finished yet), as there are more -ir verbs in store for you to explore in another lesson! For now, have a look at some of Patricia's videos on second-group verbs: Les verbes du 2ème groupe, Les verbes du 2ème groupe les plus utilisés. And for a list of common second-group verbs, click here.