French Verb Focus: Tenir (To Hold)


Essential Reading

French Verb Focus: Tenir (To Hold)

Tenir, to hold, is conjugated in almost the same way as venir (to come). The difference is that tenir forms the compound tenses (such as the perfect tense) with avoir, whereas venir forms them with être. The derivatives of tenir – retenir, to retain, and maintenir, to maintain – are conjugated like tenir.


Je tiens—I hold, I am holding
Tu tiens—you hold, you are holding (sing. fam.)
Il tient—he/it holds, he/it is holding
Elle tient—she/it holds, she/it is holding
Nous tenons—we hold, we are holding
Vous tenez—you hold, you are holding (pol. pl.)
Ils tiennent—they (m.) hold, they are holding
Elles tiennent—they (f.) hold, they are holding

(sing. fam.) means singular, familiar
( means polite, plural.


J’ai tenu – I have held, I held, I did hold
Tu as tenu – you have held, you held, you did hold
Il a tenu – he/it has held, he/it held, he/it did hold
Elle a tenu – she/it has held, she/it held, she/it did hold
Nous avons tenu – we have held, we held, we did hold
Vous avez tenu – you have held, you held, you did hold
Ils ont tenu – they have held, they held, they did hold
Elles ont tenu – they have held, they held, they did hold


Je tiendrai mon fils par la main. – I will hold my son’s hand.
Tu tiendras le coup avec tout ce travail? – Will you cope with all that work?
Il tiendra la clé du mystère. – He will hold the key to the mystery.
Elle tiendra bien la classe. – She will have the class under good control.
Nous tiendrons la porte ouverte. – We will hold the door open.
Vous tiendrez un de ces rhumes. – You will catch an awful cold.
Ils tiendront trop de place dans la voiture. – They will take up too much room in the car.
Elles tiendront l’hôtel. – They will run the hotel.


Elle tenait ses enfants très propres. – She kept her children very neat.


Je tiendrais ce renseignement de ma soeur. – I would get this information from my sister.


tiens – hold (singular, familiar)
tenons – let’s hold
tenez – hold (polite, plural)


Il faut que je tienne le coup. – I must hold out.

With thanks to Elizabeth Allen

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