The French verb boire is an irregular verb that is a little tricky to learn. It usually means to drink, but it can also mean to absorb or soak up. Notice the ‘u’ in the first and second person plural (nous and vous forms) of the present tense, which therefore also appears in the imperfect tense (since this tense is formed from the first person plural of the present).

Present tense
Je bois – I drink, I am drinking
Tu bois – you drink, you are drinking (sing.fam.)
Il boit – he/it drinks, he/it is drinking
Elle boit – she/it drinks, she/it is drinking
Nous buvons – we drink, we are drinking
Vous buvez – you drink, you are drinking (pol.pl.)
Ils boivent – they drink, they are drinking (m.)
Elles boivent – they drink, they are drinking (f.)

(sing.fam.) – singular, familiar
(pol.pl.) – polite, plural

Perfect tense – passé composé
J’ai bu – I have drunk, I drank, I did drink
Tu as bu – you have drunk, you drank, you did drink
Il a bu – he/it has drunk, he/it drank, he/it did drink
Elle a bu – she/it has drunk, she/it drank, she/it did drink
Nous avons bu – we have drunk, we drank, we did drink
Vous avez bu – you have drunk, you drank, you did drink
Ils/Elles ont bu – they have drunk, they drank, they did drink

Future tense
Je boirai du chocolat chaud avant de dormir. – I will drink some hot chocolate before going to sleep.
Tu boiras du vin avec le repas? – Will you drink some wine with the meal?
Il boira ce qu’il voudra. – He’ll drink what he wants.
Elle ne boira pas d’alcool. – She won’t drink any alcohol.
Nous boirons de l’eau minérale. – We’ll drink some mineral water.
Est-ce que vous boirez tout ce qu’on vous offrira? – Will you drink all that is given to you?
Ils boiront trop ce soir. – They will drink too much tonight.
Elles ne boiront pas avant de déjeuner. – They won’t drink before having lunch.

Imperfect tense
Je ne dormais pas bien quand je buvais du café le soir. – I didn’t use to sleep well when I drank (used to drink) coffee in the evenings.

Conditional tense
Je boirais si je n’allais pas conduire. – I would drink if I weren’t going to drive.

Imperative
Bois du jus d’orange. – Drink some orange juice.
Buvons quelque chose de chaud. – Let’s have a hot drink.
Buvez un verre d’eau avec le médicament. – Drink a glass of water with the medicine.

Subjunctive
Il ne faut pas que je boive du thé. – I mustn’t drink tea.

With thanks to Elizabeth Allen

Read more on irregular French verbs and language tips

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