501 Essential French Verbs
November 26, 2013
Author Heather McCoy, Ph.D.
Publisher Dover Publications
Publication Date 2011
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
This nicely designed book from Dover Publications consists primarily of verb tables. It is hard to get overly excited about verb tables, which simply involve listing all possible conjugations for a given verb, and then all the conjugations for another given verb, and so on, and so on, and so on.
But there is a place in human society for verb tables. 501 Essential French Verbs offers 501 pages of 501 verbs, in alphabetical order from abaisser (to lower, to bring down) to zézayer (to lisp). For each verb you also get three sample sentences demonstrating those verbs in action—definitely useful.
There are lots of conjugations in French. The ones that scare me the most are literary tenses such as the passé simple and passé antérieur, which I never use and therefore have trouble remembering. Despite my deficiencies, I confess I don’t tend to rely much on verb tables; I usually get my verb information more randomly and on the fly from other sources.
However, if you are writing a lot in French—like let’s say you are living in France as a non-native speaker, or you are a student in a college French class—it is useful to have a book such as this in which to look things up. Verb tables are most productive, I tend to think, for people who have pretty advanced skills. Beginners might feel under visual assault from unfamiliar French forms, though if you are brave, go for it!
In its opening, 501 Essential French Verbs offers descriptions of all the tenses and their functions. It also includes one page of verb exercises, which seemed a little random, but I did the exercises and enjoyed them anyway. The opening sentence of the introduction claims that “verbs are the action words of sentences,” which assertion I object to, even for a general overview; they can for example also be verbs of being, and often are.
Still, I like the clean, simple layout, and for $9.95, in the universe of sometimes expensive reference books, I would consider 501 Essential French Verbs a good deal.