The French Verb 'Vivre': Your Ultimate Guide to Talking about Life

May 15th, 2023 - Vera

The French verb ‘vivre’, translating as ‘to live’, is a fundamental pillar of the French language. The act of living, experiencing, and surviving is encapsulated within this single verb, rendering it essential for any French language learner. As such, a comprehensive understanding of ‘vivre’ and its conjugations can enhance your command of French. This article aims to present an all-inclusive guide to ‘vivre’, helping you navigate its intricate uses and variations.

‘Vivre’ in its Basic Form

At its most basic, ‘vivre’ is translated as ‘to live’. For instance, “Je vis à Paris” means “I live in Paris”. But ‘vivre’ also extends to the notions of experiencing, as in “Vivre l’instant présent” (Live the present moment), and surviving, as in “Vivre en temps de guerre” (To live in times of war). As such, ‘vivre’ encapsulates the various nuances of life, making it an indispensable tool in French conversation.

The Conjugation of ‘Vivre’

‘Vivre’ is a regular -re verb, and its conjugation follows a certain pattern across different tenses. Here are the primary conjugations for ‘vivre’:

Present tense (Présent de l’indicatif):

Simple Past (Passé simple):

Imperfect (Imparfait):

Future (Futur simple):

The Reflexive Form: ‘Se Vivre’

When ‘vivre’ is used reflexively as ‘se vivre’, it implies experiencing oneself in a certain way. For instance, “Elle se vit comme une artiste” translates as “She sees herself as an artist”. In this context, ‘se vivre’ conveys one’s self-perception and identity, further extending the verb’s range.

The Conjugation of ‘Se Vivre’

When ‘vivre’ is used reflexively, its conjugation changes slightly. Here are the primary conjugations for ‘se vivre’:

Present tense (Présent de l’indicatif):

Imperfect (Imparfait):

‘Vivre’ in Figurative Speech

‘Vivre’ features prominently in French idiomatic expressions, providing them with a sense of dynamism and vitality. For example, ‘vivre d’amour et d’eau fraîche’ (literally, to live on love and fresh water) is a romantic expression implying a life fueled more by love than by material needs. Another common expression is ‘vivre à cent à l’heure’, translating to ‘living life at a hundred miles an hour’, indicating a fast-paced, hectic lifestyle.

‘Vivre’ in the Passe Compose

In the passé composé (compound past tense), ‘vivre’ takes ‘avoir’ as its auxiliary verb. For example, “J’ai vécu à Londres pendant trois ans” means “I lived in London for three years”. However, when used reflexively (se vivre), it uses ‘être’ as the auxiliary verb. For instance, “Elle s’est vécue comme une victime” translates to “She perceived herself as a victim”.


Mastering the French verb ‘vivre’ requires understanding its various uses and proper conjugation across different tenses. As a verb that encapsulates the essence of life, ‘vivre’ is integral to expressing a range of experiences and emotions in French. Therefore, a comprehensive grasp of ‘vivre’ can significantly enhance your proficiency in the French language, enriching your conversations and deepening your connection with the French culture.

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