Vouloir, pouvoir & devoir

Year 8  have been looking at the present tense of these verbs.

They are modal verbs and are generally followed by an infinitive.

  • Vouloir = to want to
  • Pouvoir = to be able to (“can”)
  • Devoir = to have to (“must”)

We have used these basic translations, although devoir is a verb with various meanings – it can refer to debt (Elle me doit mille euros – she owes me 1000 euros), obligation (Vous devez attendre le bus – you must wait for the bus) or probability (Le bus doit arriver à 10h – the bus is supposed to arrive at 10 o’clock). Tone of voice and gestures when speaking, or other text when reading will give you clues to the meaning of the verb each time.

  • Je peux jouer au golf – I can play golf
  • Il veux jouer au golf – He wants to play golf
  • Vous devez jouer au golf – You have to play golf

These verb are all irregular, but they do follow some of the patterns of verb endings. What can you remember?

Can’t remember verb endings?

Regular verb endings are fairly straightforward – you’ve just got to remember them! Here’s a little reminder of the present tense of regular -er, i-r and -re verbs, but have alook on the FROG pages for more details and examples.

er (parler)

je parle

tu parles

il / elle parle

nous parlons

vous parlez

ils / elles parlent


-ir (finir)

je finis

tu finis

il / elle finit

nous finissons

vous finissez

ils / elles finissent


-re (descendre)

je descends

tu descends

il / elle descend

nous descendons

vous descendez

ils / elles descendent