Harnessing 'Tenir': A Detailed Study of this French Verb

May 14th, 2023 - Vera

The French language, known for its beauty and complexity, is packed with versatile and expressive verbs. One such verb is ‘tenir,’ which translates to ‘to hold’ in English. While its basic meaning may seem simple, ‘tenir’ is a multifaceted verb with various uses in different contexts. This article will delve into the conjugation and usage of ‘tenir,’ providing insight into its integral role in the French language.

Understanding ‘Tenir’

‘Tenir’ is an irregular verb, meaning it does not follow the standard conjugation patterns of most ‘-ir’ verbs. Its conjugation is unique and will require some memorization. However, it is a commonly used verb and crucial for expressing a range of ideas and actions in French.

Here’s how ‘tenir’ is conjugated in the present tense:

The past participle of ‘tenir’ is ‘tenu.’ This is used with the auxiliary verb ‘avoir’ to form compound tenses, such as the passé composé (e.g., ‘j’ai tenu’ means ‘I held’ or ‘I have held’).

Basic Usage of ‘Tenir’

At its most fundamental, ‘tenir’ is used to express the action of holding or keeping something:

However, ‘tenir’ can also signify possession or ownership:

In addition, ‘tenir’ can mean to manage or to run, especially in the context of a business or organization:

‘Tenir’ in Different Tenses

Mastering the conjugation of ‘tenir’ in different tenses is crucial for effective communication in French. Here’s how ‘tenir’ is conjugated in some of the most commonly used tenses:

Advanced Uses of ‘Tenir’

‘Tenir’ is a versatile verb with a broad range of uses beyond its literal meaning. For example, ‘tenir à’ can mean ‘to be attached to’ or ‘to care about’:

‘Tenir de’ can mean ‘to take after’ or ‘to resemble’:

And ‘tenir pour’ can mean ‘to consider’ or ‘to regard as’:

Common Expressions and Phases with ‘Tenir’

‘Tenir’ also appears in numerous idiomatic expressions, which can make its usage seem more complex. Here are a few common examples:

Mastering ‘Tenir’

Despite its irregular conjugation and myriad uses, ‘tenir’ can be mastered with consistent practice and engagement with the language. Here are a few tips:

  1. Regular Practice: Consistency is key when learning any new verb, especially irregular ones like ‘tenir.’ Regularly practice its conjugation in different tenses and contexts.

  2. Use ‘Tenir’ in Context: Try to use ‘tenir’ in sentences as much as possible. This will help you understand the different ways ‘tenir’ is used in everyday French.

  3. Learn Idiomatic Expressions: Learning common expressions with ‘tenir’ will not only expand your vocabulary but also enable you to express yourself more naturally and fluently in French.

  4. Leverage Language Learning Resources: Utilize language learning apps, websites, and textbooks to practice French verb conjugation. These resources can be a great help in mastering ‘tenir’ and other French verbs.


The verb ‘tenir’ plays a crucial role in expressing a variety of actions and ideas in French. From holding an object to running a business, from showing attachment to taking after someone, ‘tenir’ can convey a range of meanings depending on the context. While its irregular conjugation and varied uses can seem challenging, remember that every step you take in learning a new language brings you closer to fluency. So, embrace the process, keep practicing, and soon you’ll be using ‘tenir’ with ease and confidence.

The journey of learning a new language is full of discoveries and revelations. Each new verb you learn unveils a new aspect of the language’s depth and richness. So, continue your journey with enthusiasm and curiosity, and you’ll find that the rewards are truly worth the effort. Bonne chance avec votre apprentissage du français! (Good luck with your French learning!)

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