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Lesson 11 – 3rd group verbs (part 2) – the verb “TENIR” (conjugation in the present tense)

We have started to get familiar with the 3rd group verbs with our last lesson (lesson 10 – part 1 – verb “ALLER”) and we have learned that the 3rd group verbs are very irregular.

So, it is with no surprise that in this lesson, we will see another irregular verb: “TENIR”. Even though this verb ends with “-IR” like “FINIR”, which is part of the 2nd group, “TENIR” is part of the 3rd group and has its own conjugation.

You will find below the conjugation of the verb “TENIR” in the present tense. Try to repeat it several times out loud in order to really know it by heart, because it is a very useful verb to learn. You will see towards the end of this lesson, that by doing that you will be able to conjugate a lot of other verbs.

TENIRto hold/take/grasp
je tiensI hold
tu tiensyou hold
il tient
elle tient
he holds
she holds
nous tenonswe hold
vous tenezyou hold
ils tiennent
elles tiennent
they hold

Please watch our video below for the pronunciation of this lesson

Here are some new vocabulary seen in the video:

un saca bag
ton chienyour dog
en laisseon a leash
la mainthe hand
un livrea book
tenir paroleto keep your word / to stick to your word 
une informationan information
un travaila job/work

Like the word “to hold” in English, the French word “TENIR” has different meanings, we will see below the most common ones

  1. tenir + object => to hold
    • je tiens un bouquet de fleurs (I am holding a bouquet)
    • il tient un sac (he is holding a bag)
  2. tenir => to take, to grip, to grasp
    • Grand-mère tient mon bras pour traverser la rue (Grandma grabs my arm to cross the street)
  3. tenir => to have
    • Je tiens des informations (I have information)
    • Nous le tenons, c’est fini pour lui. (we got him, it is done for him)
  4. tenir => to keep
    • Je tiens mon chien en laisse. (I keep my dog on a leash)
    • Vous tenez toujours parole. (You always keep your word)

Examples seen in the video:

Je tiens un sac.(I am holding a bag.)
L’enfant tient un livre. (The kid is holding a book)
Nous tenons des informations. (We have information.)
Tu tiens ton chien en laisse. (You keep your dog on a leash.)
Ils tiennent parole. (they keep their word.)

Se tenir la main (to hold hands)

In English, we say “to hold hands” with “hands” in plural, but in French we say “se tenir la main” with “la main” (the hand) in singular. We could say “se tenir les mains” but it will have a different meaning, like we are holding our own hands together.

Je te tiens la main. (I am holding your hand.)
L’enfant me tient la main. (The kid is holding my hand.)
Nous nous tenons la main. (We are holding hands.)
Les enfants se tiennent la main. (The children are holding hands)

tenir à quelqu’un (to care for/about someone)

tenir à quelque chose (to care about something)

Je tiens à mon chien. (I care about my dog.)
Il tient à Alice. (He cares for Alice.)
Vous tenez à ce sac. (You care about this bag.)
Je tiens à mon travail. (I care about my job.)

tenir à + VERBE à l’infinitif
(to want to … / to be keen to …)

tenir à allerNous tenons à aller au restaurant. (We want to go to the restaurant.)
tenir à allerElles tiennent à aller à la piscine. (They want to go to the swimmingpool.)
tenir à faireJe tiens à faire mes devoirs. (I want to do my homework.)
tenir à visiterIl tient à visiter Paris aujourd’hui. (He wants to visit Paris today)
  • Nous tenons à te féliciter. (we want to congratulate you)
  • Nous tenons à nous excuser. (we want to apologize)
  • Tenez-vous vraiment à y aller ? (Do you really want to go?)

At the beginning of this lesson, we learned the conjugation of the verb “TENIR” in the present tense. Now, we will see that we will be able to conjugate several other verbs that end with “-tenir”. Indeed, the conjugation of these verbs follow the same patterns as you can see below.

verbs ending with « -tenir »meaning in Englishconjugation in the present tense
TENIRto hold/take/graspje tiens
tu tiens
il tient
nous tenons
vous tenez
ils tiennent
APPARTENIRto belongj’appartiens
CONTENIRto include/containje contiens
tu contiens
il/elle/on contient
nous contenons
vous contenez
ils/elles contiennent
ENTRETENIRto maintain/keepj’entretiens
tu entretiens
il/elle/on entretient
nous entretenons
vous entretenez
ils/elles entretiennent
MAINTENIRto keep/holdje maintiens
tu maintiens
il/elle/on maintient
nous maintenons
vous maintenez
ils/elles maintiennent
RETENIRto catch/hold/retainje retiens
tu retiens
il/elle/on retient
nous retenons
vous retenez
ils/elles retiennent
OBTENIRto get/obtainj’obtiens
tu obtiens
il/elle/on obtient
nous obtenons
vous obtenez
ils/elles obtiennent
SOUTENIRto support/hold upje soutiens
tu soutiens
il/elle/on soutient
nous soutenons
vous soutenez
ils/elles soutiennent
S’ABSTENIRto abstain/refrainje m’abstiens
tu t’abstiens
il s’abstient
nous nous abstenons
vous vous abstenez
ils s’abstiennent

Exemples :

  • Ce chien m’appartient. (I own this dog)
  • Ce téléphone m’appartient. (this phone is mine / I own this phone)
  • Ce sac contient mes affaires. (this bag contains my belongings)
  • Cette bouteille contient de l’eau. (this bottle contains water)
  • Alice entretient la maison. (Alice maintains the house)
  • Nous entretenons de bonnes relations. (We maintain good relationships)
  • Je retiens le chien. (I am holding the dog)
  • Retiens cette phrase ! (Remember this sentence)
  • J’obtiens toujours de bonnes notes à l’école. (I always get good grades at school)
  • Elle obtient ce qu’elle veut. (she gets what she wants)
  • Mes enfants me soutiennent. (my children hold me up)
  • Je m’abstiens de boire de l’alcool. (I refrain from drinking alcohol)
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