French Bescherelle - Every Student of French Language Should Have One!

The French Bescherelle - Complete Guide to Conjugating is an invaluable tool for anyone serious about studying French language. It is a book covering all the groupings and conjugations of French verbs, and is a wonderful resource. It does however take a little getting used in terms of learning how to navigate through it.

While the Bescherelle's cover says that it shows you how to conjugate 12,000 French verbs, it however only lists just under 8,000 according to my count. However many entries in the book serve as 'model verbs' upon which others are based. Secondly they explain that many verbs have several meanings, such as voler which can mean to steal or to fly.

Also it covers transitive and intransitive uses of verbs, and this allows them to count a verb twice (or more?) in their total.

The Bescherelle serves three purposes:

  1. Essential grammar points about verbs, their usage and construction,
  2. Eighty-two verb tables showing the different patterns of conjugation,
  3. A list of 8,000 verbs with their English translations.

3 Sections of the French Bescherelle

Le Nouveau Bescherelle Section 1: Grammar of the Verb

The first dozen pages talk about the construction of French verbs. It covers the Three Groups of French Verbs, stems and endings; how verbs agree with the subject; agreement with the past participle; participles being conjugated with avoir or être.; impersonal verbs; transitive and intransitive verbs and such like.

Le Nouveau Bescherelle Section 2: Conjugation of French Verbs

The second section gives examples of each of the 82 patterns of verb endings in French.
  1. ER VERBS: By far the most verbs in French end in -ER, in fact about 89% ( a bit under 7,000). There are 13 patterns of ER endings. Over 5,500 of these ER verbs (about 70%) are stock-standard regular ER verbs. The rest come under the other 12 patterns. Often the differences are very small between patterns.
  2. IR VERBS: Around 660 IR verbs are listed, in 33 different patterns ...about 9% of French verbs,
  3. RE VERBS: About 2% of verbs have RE endings, with about 200 RE verbs listed, in about 30 different patterns.
  4. Some patterns are treated outside of these groups, such as avoir and être, as well as demonstrations of passive voice conjugations and reflexive verbs.

Le Nouveau Bescherelle Section 3: Dictionary of Spelling and Verbs

Pages 103 to 174 of my Bescherelle list the 8,000 verbs and their meanings. A useful feature is that the more common French verbs are highlighted in bold font making them more easy to identify.

However do be careful with the definitions in the French Bescherelle as they tend to just have the 'headline' definitions, when in fact there are often many other meanings of a verb. I strongly recommend that you consult a big, fat comprehensive dictionary for more on their definitions, and examples. The Oxford French-English dictionary is a magnificent piece of work, with loads of definitions and idioms for many words. It is also very useful to COMBINE this with a French French dictionary - that is a French dictionary written in French for Frenchies. Mine is a Larousse and by combining the multiple sources one can get a much more accurate definition of most words.

Why is the Bescherelle Masculine?

The original of this book was compiled by Louis-Nicholas Bescherelle. You can use this male gender character to remind you of the fact that the word is masculine. The reason for it being masculine is most likely because it took its name from the title of the first part L'art de conjuguer - 'The Art of Conjugation'. Because l'art is masculine the word Bescherelle is masculine, because it has become known by the author's name without the extra bits. If anyone else has more accurate information on this topic please contact us.

Practising French Verbs

A great way to practise your French verb conjugations is to simply recite a verb table in full every day. Check out our Daily French Lesson Verb Tables. Do these for 30 days of one of the verb families and you will be impressed at your progress.

You can also get our Weekly French Newsletter by email which includes a link to a fully conjugated French verb every week.

Click here to add this Free Daily French Lesson to your website. A new page will open with instructions on how to do this by copying and pasting some code onto your website.

Spanish Bescherelle - and a drawback

I have a Spanish Bescherelle, as well as the French Bescherelle. The Spanish one is published by Langenscheidts. It performs much the same functions as the French Bescherelle. However there is one big annoying drawback, which annoys me when I use it... and that is ... the verbs list in the back does not incorporate the English translation with the Spanish verb. So in terms of user-friendliness (and notwithstanding my criticisms above of the French-to-English translations of the French Bescherelle) it is not as good as the French one. I cannot find any other Spanish Bescherelle published by anyone else. Grrrr.

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200 Words a Day! French Bescherelle - Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs
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