All about “fuir”, a French verb you don’t need to avoid

There’s no need to run away from the French verb fuir! It may look a bit strange, but once you understand its basic meaning, it’s easy to use.  Let’s learn how to conjugate fuir, what it means, and how it differs from its cousin, the verb s’enfuir.

Fuir conjugation

Fuir is an irregular verb that’s conjugated with avoir in compound tenses.

Here’s how to conjugate fuir in its most common tenses.

PresentPassé Composé Imparfait
je fuisj’ai fuije fuyais
tu fuistu as fuitu fuyais
il/elle/on fuitil/elle/on a fuiil/elle/on fuyait
nous fuyonsnous avons fuinous fuyions
vous fuyezvous avez fuivous fuyiez
ils/elles fuientils/elles ont fuiils/elles fuyaient
Futur simpleConditionalSubjunctive
je fuiraije fuiraisque je fuie
tu fuirastu fuiraisque tu fuies
il/elle/on fuirail/elle/on fuiraitqu’ il/elle/on fuie
nous fuironsnous fuirionsque nous fuyions
vous fuirezvous fuiriezque vous fuyiez
ils/elles fuirontils/elles se fuiraientqu’ils/elles fuient
Imperative
Fuis (tu)
Fuyons (nous)
Fuyez (vous)

Less common fuir conjugations

Here’s how to conjugate fuir in tenses you’ll see and use less often.

Plus-que-parfaitPassé simplePassé antérieur
que j’avais fuije fuisj’eus fui
tu avais fuitu fuistu eus fui
il/elle/on avait fuiil/elle/on fuitil/elle/on eut fui
nous avions fuinous fuîmesnous eûmes fui
vous aviez fuivous fuîtesvous eûtes fui
ils/elles avaient fuiils/elles fuirentils/elles eurent fui
Futur antérieur Futur proche
j’aurai fuije vais fuir
tu auras fuitu vas fuir
il/elle/on aura fuiil/elle/on va fuir
nous aurons fuinous allons fuir
vous aurez fuivous allez fuir
ils/elles auront fuiils/elles vont fuir
Conditionnnel passé
je aurais fui
tu aurais fui
il/elle/on aurait fui
nous aurions fui
vous auriez fui
ils/elles auraient fui
Passé du subjonctifImparfait du subjonctifPlus-que-parfait du subjonctif
que j’aie fuique je fuissej’eusse fui
que tu aies fuique tu fuissesque tu eusses fui
que il/elle/on ait fuiqu’il/elle/on fuîtqu’il/elle/on eût fui
que nous ayons fuique nous fuissionsque nous eussions fui
que vous ayez fuique vous fuissiezque vous eussiez fui
que ils/elles aient fuiqu’ils/elles fuissentqu’ils/elles eussent fui

What does fuir mean?

A faucet in profile, with a drop of water coming out of it and water on top of it and around it, too. Has it just been used? Has it been under the rain since it seems to be outside due to the blurred green background? Or is it leaking?

Fuir means “to avoid”, “to flee”, or “to leak”.

For instance:

Il est plutôt solitaire, il fuit les foules. (He’s a rather solitary person; he avoids/gets himself far away from crowds.)

In a sort of related way,  fuir can also be used to describe something that leaks. For example: Il faut remplacer ce tuyau, il fuit. (We need to replace this pipe, it’s leaking.). As in English, this sense of leaking can be literal or figurative, as you can see in expressions like une fuite dans la presse (a press leak).

Two common words related to fuir

Two words related to fuir that you’ll often come across and use are:

Une fuite is the noun form of fuir. It can mean “running away” or “fleeing” or “a leak”.  As with its verb form, this can be used literally or figuratively.

For instance:  Il y a une fuite d’eau dans la cave. (There’s a water leak in the basement.)  Or La fuite du temps est une chose qu’on ressent tous avec l’âge. (Time’s fleeing is something we all feel, especially when we get old.)

As you can see, when you want to say what is leaking, you put it after de . For instance, une fuite de gaz is “a gas leak”.

The other common fuir-related word, s’enfuir, is a verb that also means “to flee”, but this time it takes on a context of escaping, rather than avoiding.

For instance: Face au dragon, le brave chevalier a perdu tout son courage et il s’est enfui. (Face-to-face with the dragon, the brave knight lost all of his courage and ran away.)

Let’s look at how to conjugate s’enfuir.

S’enfuir conjugation

A man dressed as a knight in golden armor, with a small painted wooden shield and riding a white horse, looks out over a field with what appears to be an old stone wall in the distance. He holds a red pennant high in the air.
Face au dragon, le brave chevalier a perdu tout son courage et il s’est enfui.

S’enfuir is conjugated the same way as fuir, with one notable exception. Since it’s a reflexive verb, it uses être as an auxiliary (as opposed to avoir). This means, among other things, that in compound tenses, the participle has to agree with the subject.

Here’s how to conjugate the most common tenses of s’enfuir.

PresentPassé Composé Imparfait
je m’enfuisje me suis enfui(e)je m’enfuyais
tu t’enfuistu t’es enfui(e)tu t’enfuyais
il/elle/on s’enfuitil/elle/on s’est enfui(e)il/elle/on s’enfuyait
nous nous enfuyonsnous nous sommes enfui(e)snous nous enfuyions
vous vous enfuyezvous vous êtes enfui(e)(s)vous vous enfuyiez
ils/elles enfuientils/elles se sont enfui(e)sils/elles s’enfuyaient
FutureConditionalSubjunctive
je m’enfuiraije m’enfuiraisque je m’enfuie
tu t’enfuirastu t’enfuiraisque tu t’enfuies
il/elle/on s’enfuirail/elle/on s’enfuiraitqu’ il/elle/on s’enfuie
nous nous enfuironsnous nous enfuirionsque nous nous enfuyions
vous vous enfuirezvous vous enfuiriezque vous vous enfuyiez
ils/elles s’enfuirontils/elles s’enfuiraientqu’ils/elles s’enfuient
Imperative 
Enfuis-toi
Enfuyons-nous
Enfuyez-vous

Less common s’enfuir conjugations

Here’s how to conjugate the less common tenses of s’enfuir.

Plus-que-parfaitPassé simplePassé antérieur
je m’étais enfui(e)je m’enfuisje me fus enfui(e)
tu t’étais enfui(e)tu t’enfuistu te fus enfui(e)
il/elle/on s’était enfui(e)il/elle/on s’enfuitil/elle/on se fut enfui(e)
nous nous étions enfui(e)snous nous enfuîmesnous nous fûmes enfui(e)s
vous vous étiez enfui(e)(s)vous vous enfuîtesvous vous fûtes enfui(e)(s)
ils/elles s’étaient enfui(e)sils/elles s’enfuirentils/elles se furent enfui(e)s
Futur antérieur Futur proche
je me serai enfui(e)je vais m’enfuir
tu te seras enfui(e)tu vas t’enfuir
il/elle/on se sera enfui(e)il/elle/on va s’enfuir
nous nous serons enfui(e)snous allons nous enfuir
vous vous serez venu(e)(s)vous allez vous enfuir
ils/elles se seront venu(e)sils/elles vont s’enfuir
Conditionnnel du passé
je me serais enfui(e)
tu te serais enfui(e)
il/elle/on se serait enfui(e)
nous nous serions enfui(e)s
vous vous seriez enfui(e)(s)
ils/elles se seraient enfui(e)s
Passé du subjonctifImparfait du subjonctifPlus-que-parfait du subjonctif
que je me sois enfui(e)que je m’enfuisseje eusse servi
que tu te sois enfui(e)que tu t’enfuissestu eusses servi
qu’il/elle/on se soit enfui(e)qu’il/elle/on s’enfuîtil/elle/on eût servi
que nous nous soyons enfui(e)sque nous nous enfuissionsnous eussions servi
que vous vous soyez enfui(e)(s)que vous vous enfuissiezvous eussiez servi
qu’ils/elles se soient enfui(e)squ’ils/elles s’enfuissentils/elles eussent servi

What is the difference between fuir and s’enfuir?

A spiral of barbed wire with a low building and a mountain around it. It seems to be a prison gate.

There are two main differences between fuir and s’enfuir.

Fuir means “to flee” in the sense of avoidance

Fuir means “to flee” in the sense of avoidance whereas s’enfuir means “to flee” in the sense of “to escape.” This means s’enfuir is usually used to describe the action of actively escaping whereas fuir tends to be more passive.

To put it another way, some synonyms of fuir could be esquiver or éviter, while a synonym of s’enfuir could be s’échapper.

Here’s an example of how each word is used:

Il a fui son pays ravagé par la guerre.

He escaped his war-torn country.

Il a réussi à s’enfuir.

He managed to escape/run away.

2. Fuir isn’t followed by de but s’enfuir is

As you might have noticed from the examples in this section, another difference between fuir and s’enfuir is that fuir is directly followed by a noun, while s’enfuir has to be followed by de plus an article and then the noun.

How to remember the difference between fuir and s’enfuir 

With practice and habit, you’ll come to learn the difference between fuir and s’enfuir. If you’re looking for some ways to practice, feel free to check out our our article featuring links to resources for listening to, watching, reading, and speaking French.  

An easy way to start keeping the difference between these verbs in mind is to think s’enfuir = s’échapper.

Better yet, you can use the magic of song!

Fuir and s’enfuir are in the titles of songs by two legendary French singers. The way they’re used will help you remember the subtle difference between these two related verbs.

In Fuir le bonheur de peur qu’il ne se sauve (Flee happiness for fear that it will go away), Jane Birkin sings about avoiding happiness so that you won’t have to see it go away.   

In S’enfuir et après, Michel Sardou reminds us that we can run away, but no matter how far we go, we’ll still feel heartbreak.  

Sobering – but hopefully also effective ways to remember the subtle difference between these two verbs.

Common phrases and expressions with fuir

A table at a cafe. There is a cappucino and a glass of water in the foreground, as if in front of us. Across the table, we see the lap and torso of a mn who is reaching for his coffee.
Il y a certaines choses qu’il vaut mieux ne pas dire lors d’un premier rendez-vous, sinon vous risquez de faire fuir votre rancard.

Fuir and its variants are often used as parts of phrases and expressions. Here are the most common:

  • faire fuir – to make someone run away/to make someone run for the hills. Ex: Il y a certaines choses qu’il vaut mieux ne pas dire lors d’un premier rendez-vous, sinon vous risquez de faire fuir votre rancard. (There are certain things that it’s better not to say during a first date, or you’ll risk making your date run away.)
  • être en fuite – to be on the run. Ex: Après avoir tué sa famille en 2011,  Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès est toujours en fuite. (After having killed his family in 2011,  Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès is still on the run.)
  • une fuite dans la presse – a press leak. Ex: Le groupe ne voulait pas que le monde sache qu’ils travaillaient sur un nouvel album, mais à cause d’une fuite dans la presse, tout le monde est au courant. (The band didn’t want the world to know that they were working on a new album, but because of a press leak, everyone knows.)
  • un délit de fuite – failure to report a crime/a hit-and-run
  • mettre quelqu’un en fuite – to run someone off/chase someone away. Ex: L’alarme a mis les cambrioleurs en fuite. (The alarm made the burglars run away.)

Now you know all about fuir (and s’enfuir), so the next time you get a chance to use one of these verbs, there’s no need to avoid it (or run away)!

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.

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