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French grammar - The strange case of asseoir and s'asseoir

The strange case of asseoir & s'asseoir

The verb asseoir means 'to seat (someone)'. And it's reflexive counterpart s'asseoir means 'to perform the action of sitting oneself down'.

Technically these are -IR verbs but they are truly irregular.

This verb (and many other words) were 'reformed' in the 1990s. So asseoir became assoir.

However, despite the official change, the modernized forms have not really taken hold with the French public, particularly the plural conjugations.

-- In particular, the modernized nous assoyons and vous assoyez are strenuously avoided.

Here are the old & new conjugations - you are likely to encounter both forms:

j'assieds & j'assois

t'assieds & t'assois

il assied & il assoit

nous asseyons & nous assoyons [avoid]

vous asseyez & vous assoyez [avoid)

ils asseyent & ils assoient

If you are using the companion app, you will hear in the examples that the pronunciations are also different. But both are acceptable.

Examples:
Je m'assieds sur ce fauteuil.
I sit on this armchair.

Old form

s'asseoir (means) 'to sit (oneself) down'

fauteuil (m) means 'armchair'

Tu t'assieds sur le tabouret.
You sit down on the stool.

Old form

tabouret (m) means 'stool'.

Il s'assied sur cette chaise.
He sits down on that chair.

Old form

Nous nous asseyons sur la table basse.
We sit down on the coffee table.

Old form

table basse (f) means 'coffee table'

Vous vous asseyez sur le canapé.
You sit down on the sofa.

Old form

canapé (m) means 'sofa' or 'couch'

Ils s'asseyent sur le repose-pied.
They sit down on the footstool.

Old form

repose-pied (m) means 'foot stool'

Je m'assois sur le banc.
I am sitting on the bench.

Modernized form

banc (m) means 'bench'

Tu t'assois sur la chaise longue.
You sit on the lounge chair.

Modernized form

chaise longue (f) means 'lounge chair' or 'deck chair'

Elle s'assoit sur la pelouse.
She is sitting on the lawn.

Modernized form

pelouse (f) means 'lawn'

Nous nous asseyons sur le mur du jardin.
We sit on the garden wall.

Old form

Modernized formasseyons is the modern form should be avoided

mur (m) means 'wall'

Vous vous asseyez sur la couverture de pique-nique.
Are you sitting on the picnic blanket.

Old form

Modernized form assoyez is the modern form should be avoided

pique-nique (m ) means 'picnic'

Ils s'assoient par terre.
They are sitting on the ground.

Modernized form

par terre means 'on the ground' or 'on the floor'

J'assieds le bébé sur la chaise pour le repas.
I seat the baby on the chair for the meal.

Old form

asseoir (verb) means 'to seat (someone)'

Pourquoi asseyez-vous les élèves par terre ?
Why are you seating the students on the ground?

Old form

par terre means 'on the ground' or 'on the floor'

Les gens qui s'asseyent à cette table sont mes amis.
The people who are sitting at the table are my friends.

Old form