How to use and conjugate the French verb “recevoir”

Recevoir means “to receive” in French. But like many commonly used verbs, it has a few different shades of meaning.

Let’s learn more about recevoir!

Recevoir conjugation

Recevoir is an irregular verb, which means you’ll have to memorize its conjugations.

Because the “c” in recevoir must always sound like an “s”, you will need to add a cedilla whenever it’s followed by a letter that isn’t “i” or “e”.

A small consolation is that recevoir is conjugated with avoir in compound tenses, so you don’t have to agree the participle and the subject in a standard sentence. 

Here’s how to conjugate recevoir in the most common French verb tenses:

Present simple Passé Composé Imparfait
je reçois j’ai reçu je recevais
tu reçois tu as reçu tu recevais
il/elle/on reçoit il/elle/on a reçu il/elle/on recevait
nous recevons nous avons reçu nous recevions
vous recevez vous avez reçu vous receviez
ils/elles reçoivent ils/elles ont reçu ils/elles recevaient
Future Conditional Subjunctive
je recevrai je recevrais que je reçoive
tu recevras tu recevrais que tu reçoives
il/elle/on recevra il/elle/on recevrait qu’ il/elle/on reçoive
nous recevrons nous recevrions que nous recevions
vous recevrez vous recevriez que vous receviez
ils/elles recevront ils/elles recevraient qu’ils/elles reçoivent
Imperative
Reçois (tu)
Recevons (nous)
Recevez (vous)

Less common recevoir conjugations

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

Plus-que-parfait Passé simple Passé antérieur
j’avais reçu je reçus j’eus reçu
tu avais reçu tu reçus tu eus reçu
il/elle/on avait reçu il/elle/on reçut il/elle/on eut reçu
nous avions reçu nous reçûmes nous eûmes reçu
vous aviez reçu vous reçûtes vous eûtes reçu
ils/elles avaient reçu ils/elles reçurent ils/elles eurent reçu
Futur antérieur Futur proche
j’aurai reçu je vais recevoir
tu auras reçu tu vas recevoir
il/elle/on aura reçu il/elle/on va recevoir
nous aurons reçu nous allons recevoir
vous aurez reçu vous allez recevoir
ils/elles auront reçu ils/elles vont recevoir
Conditionnel du passé
je aurais reçu
tu aurais reçu
il/elle/on aurait reçu
nous aurions reçu
vous auriez reçu
ils/elles auraient reçu
Passé du subjonctif Imparfait du subjonctif Plus-que-parfait du subjonctif
j’aie reçu je reçusse je eusse reçu
tu aies reçu tu reçusses tu eusses reçu
il/elle/on ait reçu il/elle/on reçut il/elle/on eût reçu
nous ayons reçu nous ayons reçussions nous eussions reçu
vous ayez reçu vous ayez reçussiez vous eussiez reçu
ils/elles aient reçu ils/elles reçussent ils/elles eussent reçu

What does recevoir mean?

A grumpy-looking black and white cat looks out from a smallish box.
Voici un colis que j’aimerais recevoir ! (Here’s a package I’d like to receive!)

Recevoir means “to receive” or “to get”.

For instance:

Il a reçu un super cadeau pour son anniversaire. (He got an awesome present for his birthday.)

Vous recevrez le colis d’ici la fin de la semaine. (You’ll receive the package sometime between now  and the end of the week.)

Les membres des Boy Bands reçoivent des milliers de messages de leurs fans chaque jour. (Members of Boy Bands receive thousands of messages from their fans every day.)

But, as in English, this seemingly straightforward word has some subtle shades of meaning.

For example, recevoir can sometimes be used in a formal sense to mean “to receive (i.e. welcome/host) guests/clients”.

For instance:

Ils reçoivent souvent des invités. (They often receive (welcome/host) guests.)

Le docteur Dupont ne reçoit pas aujourd’hui. (Dr. Dupont isn’t seeing patients today.)

Another way recevoir can be used, as in English, is how someone takes news or an idea. For instance:

Sa critique a été mal reçue par le groupe. (Her critique was taken badly by the group.)

Note that this usage is rarer in French than it is in English.

Still another shade of meaning for recevoir is “to take a hit” or be on the receiving end of a violent act. This makes sense in a way and could even be understood in English. “I received a punch to the stomach” wouldn’t be the ordinary, everyday sentence you’d use, but it’s still understandable.  In French, it’s common to say something like:

Il a reçu un coup de poing (He took a punch/He got punched/He got a punch/He was punched).

La victime a reçu dix coups de couteau. (The victim was stabbed ten times. (Literally: The victim received ten knife wounds.)

A very specific use of recevoir is in radio communications, including walkie-talkies. If you watch French action or spy films, you’ll probably come across these two phrases:

Bien reçu – Copy that

recevoir quelqu’un 5 sur 5: Five by five (to hear someone loud and clear) – Je te reçois 5 sur 5.

These are the most common meanings and uses of recevoir, but you can find a few more, as well as additional examples and explanations, in Wiktionnaire’s excellent recevoir entry.    

The more you read and listen to French, the more comfortable you’ll become with recevoir’s different shades of meaning.  And if one of them doesn’t sit right with you, there are usually other ways to express the same idea. For instance, while I would understand the phrase Le docteur Dupont ne reçoit pas aujourd’hui, I would probably say something like Le docteur Dupont n’est pas disponible aujourd’hui (Dr. Dupont isn’t available today) instead.

The important thing is to at least recognize recevoir’s less common uses.

Variants of recevoir

There are two major variants of recevoir that you’ll often come across in French:

reçu(e) – The participle of recevoir is often used as an adjective, as well. It can additionally be a noun – un reçu is one way to say “a receipt” in French.

Note that when reçu is used as an adjective or in certain grammatical structures, it will agree with the noun it’s modifying. If that’s feminine, it will take an “e” at the end.

réception: In addition to being a cognate for the word “reception” (party/gathering) in English, this word can also mean “receiving” and is often used in formal or professional correspondance.

Probably the most common phrase you’ll come across that uses reception in this sense is: un accusé de réception (delivery receipt/acknowledgement of receipt). You can find some other phrases and examples with réception here.  

Common phrases and expressions with recevoir

A letter in a brown envelope is hung by a string in what looks like a shop or artist's studio. The envelope is closed with a pink wax seal.

Here are some phrases with recevoir that you’ll likely come across in French:

bien recevoir – to kindly accept. You’ll usually see this phrase in formal or professional correspondance.

Example: Merci de bien recevoir cette lettre et les documents ci-joints. (Kindly accept this letter and the enclosed documents.)

bien reçu(e)/mal reçu(e) (par) – to be well/badly received/taken (perceived). Note that these phrases are almost always followed by the preposition par.

Example: Le film a été très mal reçu par le public. (The film was poorly received by the general public./The general public didn’t like the film.)

recevoir des visiteurs – to receive visitors (a formal way to say “to have guests over”. A less formal alternative is avoir de la visite)

Il vaut mieux donner que recevoir. – It is better to give than to receive.

une idée reçue – a cliche, stereotype, common misconception.

Example: L’habitude des Français à manger régulièrement des cuisses de grenouilles est une idée reçue. (The French regularly eating frogs’ legs is a stereotype.)  


Have you used recevoir or one of its variants or expressions before? Feel free to share in the comments!

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.

3 thoughts on “How to use and conjugate the French verb “recevoir””

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  1. Une idee recue; this phrase is all over the pages of Jean Louis Brunaux’s Nos Ancetres les Gaulois, because for years all people have ever heard about the Gauls in France has been stereotypes (LOL). Marvelous article!

    Reply
  2. I love your posts. I’m trying to improve my French and I find your posts do clear, helpful and even fun to read!
    I think there might be a small mistake in this one:

    Because the “c” in recevoir must always sound like an “s”, you will need to add a cedilla whenever it’s followed by a letter that isn’t “i” or “c”.

    Did you mean to write “e” rather than “i” ? 😊

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Diane – and you are right about the typo! I noticed it just as this article went online, and fixed it, so hopefully this new version is what you’re seeing now.

      Reply

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