In Part 2, we explored the passé composé of second-group verbs, or verbs whose infinitives end in -ir. In this lesson, we’ll discuss irregular -ir verbs, which belong to the third group.
As mentioned in our previous lesson, -ir verbs are classified, in addition to their infinitive endings, according to their present participles (equivalent to the -ing ending of a verb in English). So, all -ir verbs with a present participle ending in -issant (such as finir > finissant [finishing]) belong to the second group and have a past participle ending in -i.
On the other hand, most irregular -ir verbs have a present participle ending in -ant and a past participle ending in -u.
For example, tenir (to keep, hold) becomes tenant (keeping, holding) and tenu (kept, held):
en tenant la poêle de la main droite
while holding the pan with the right handPlay Caption
Mais elle a également tenu sa promesse.
But she has also kept her promise.Play Caption
It’s a good idea to learn the derivatives of a verb, as they usually share the same conjugation rules. All verbs ending in -tenir will work the same way. So, obtenir (to obtain) and retenir (to retain) also have a past participle ending in -u: obtenu, retenu.
The same applies to all the derivatives of venir (to come), such as devenir (to become) and prévenir (to warn):
Et il a prévenu les flics.
And he called the cops.Play Caption
Having said that… there’s an oddball bunch of -ir verbs that have a present participle ending in -ant and a past participle ending in -i, not -u.
For example, partir (to leave) becomes partant and parti:
Mais... en partant, elle m'a donné son numéro de téléphone.
But... as she left, she gave me her phone number.
Captions 35-36, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 3Play Caption
Leurs parents sont partis vivre en Australie il y a une dizaine d'années
Their parents went to live in Australia around ten years agoPlay Caption
And sortir (to go out) becomes sortant and sorti:
Drôles d'étudiants que ceux-là, habitant l'hôtel et sortant en robe longue et nœud papillon.
Strange students they are, living in a hotel and going out in long dresses and bow ties.
Caption 12, Le Journal - L'Institut du goûtPlay Caption
Le mec, il est sorti
The guy went outPlay Caption
Note that partir and sortir are also part of a small group of verbs that require the auxiliary être (to be) in the passé composé, which we will discuss in a future lesson.
Finally, there is a minority of -ir verbs that are quite irregular and unpredictable, with a past participle ending in -ert.
For example, the past participle of ouvrir (to open) is actually ouvert, not ouvri as its stem would suggest!
...qui a ouvert ses portes récemment à Mittelhausbergen
that recently opened its doors in Mittelhausbergen
Caption 3, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!Play Caption
Again, to make it easier for yourself, learn how to conjugate ouvrir along with its derivatives, like découvrir (to discover), recouvrir (to cover up), couvrir (to cover), whose past participles all end in -ouvert. That will save you a lot of trouble. Speaking of trouble, the group of Canadians in the example below suffered a lot because of English…
Moi j'ai souffert beaucoup dans mon enfance de l'anglais ici.
I suffered a lot in my childhood with English here.
Caption 19, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 3Play Caption
We hope that vous n’avez pas trop souffert (you didn’t suffer too much) learning about irregular -ir verbs in the passé composé, because we have another round of third-group verbs waiting to be discovered (découvert) in our next lesson!