The imperfect tense – L’imparfait

    The French imperfect tense (L’imparfait) is a tense used to talk about the past. This tense is primarily used to talk about something that used to happen or to describe a past situation.

    Section 1

    How do you form the imperfect tense in French?

    1. Take the stem of a verb in the nous form in the present tense
    2. Let’s use the verb to watch. That’s regarder
    3. Regarder in the nous form in the present tense is: nous regardons (it means we watch or we are watching)
    4. You take the stem – regard
    5. And you add the correct endings depending on what you want to say.

    Let’s try to work out how we would say: He was watching TV or He used to watch

    1. You take the stem: regard
    2. Since you want to say he, you have to use il
    3. The ending for il is ait
    4. TV in French is la télévision
    5. Therefore, “he was watching TV” is il regardait la télévision
    Section 2

    What are the endings of the imperfect tense in French?

    AudioPersonal pronounsEndings
    Jeais
    Tuais
    Ilait
    Elleait
    Onait
    Nousions
    Vousiez
    Ilsaient
    Ellesaient
    Section 3

    Let’s try to work out how we would say I was finishing all my homework or I used to finish all my homework

    1. Finir is to finish in French
    2. Take the stem of the verb in the nous form in the present tense
    3. Finir in the nous form in the present tense is nous finissons (it means we finish or we are finishing)
    4. You take the stem – finiss
    5. Since you want to say I, you have to use Je
    6. The ending for Je is ais
    7. All my homework in French is tous mes devoirs
    8. Therefore, I was finsihing all my homework is Je finissais tous mes devoirs.
    Section 4

    Some useful rules and one exception to know

    If the stem of the verb ends with G or C, you must change them to GE and Ç respectively in front of an A.

    For instance, the stem of manger is mang so if you want to say I was eating, you’ll need to take the stem mang and add an e before adding the right ending ais: je mangeais

    Let’s take a verb with a stem ending in c like commencer. Its stem is commenc. If you want to say we used to start, you’ll need the stem commenc and change it to commenç and add the correct ending ions: nous commençions

    Exceptions

    Être is the only exception

    Être is the only verb that won’t use the nous form in the present tense, it is therefore the only irregular verb. It will use the following stem in the imperfect tense: ÉT

     

    ÊTRE in the imperfect tenseEnglish translation
    J’étais
    I was
    Tu étais
    You were
    Il était
    He was
    Elle était
    She was
    On était
    One was
    Nous étions
    We were
    Vous étiez
    You were
    Ils étaient
    They were
    Elles étaient
    They were
    Section 5

    Useful verbs ending in -ER in the imperfect tense

    Verbs in the infinitive form
    Jouer (to play)
    Visiter (to visit)
    Penser (to think)
    Arriver (to arrive)
    Demander (to ask)
    Chanter (to sing)
    Manger (to eat)
    Parler (to speak)
    Écouter (to listen)
    Verbs in the imperfect tense
    Je jouais (I was playing OR I used to play)
    Tu visitais (you were visiting OR you used to visit)
    Il pensait (he was thinking OR he used to think)
    Elle arrivait (she was arriving OR she used to arrive)
    On demandait (one was asking OR one used to ask)
    Nous chantions (we were singing OR we used to sing)
    Vous mangiez (you were eating OR you used to eat)
    Ils parlaient (they were speaking OR they used to speak)
    Elles écoutaient (they were listening OR they used to listen)
    Endings: was/were + ing (used to)
    ais
    ais
    ait
    ait
    ait
    ions
    iez
    aient
    aient
    Section 6

    Useful verbs ending in -IR in the imperfect tense

    Verbs in the infinitive form
    Finir (to finish)
    Partir (to leave)
    Dormir (to sleep)
    Choisir (to choose)
    Ouvrir (to open)
    Sortir (to go out)
    Offrir (to offer)
    Grossir (to put on weight)
    Réussir (to succeed)

     

    Verbs in the imperfect tense
    Je finissais (I was finishing OR I used to finish)
    Tu partais (you were leaving OR you used to leave)
    Il dormait (he was sleeping OR he used to sleep)
    Elle choisissait (she was choosing OR she used to choose)
    On ouvrait (one was opening OR one used to open)
    Nous sortions (we were going out OR we used to go out)
    Vous offriez (you were offering OR you used to offer)
    Ils grossissaient (they were putting on weight OR they used to put on weight)
    Elles réussissaient (they were succeeding OR they used to succeed)

     

    Endings: was/were + -ing (used to)
    ais
    ais
    ait
    ait
    ait
    ions
    iez
    aient
    aient

     

    Section 7

    Useful verbs ending in -RE in the imperfect tense

    Verbs in the infinitive form
    Prendre (to take)
    Vendre (to sell)
    Attendre (to wait)
    Dire (to say)
    Comprendre (to understand)
    Apprendre (to learn)
    Boire (to drink)
    Écrire (to write)
    Lire (to read)
    Verbs in the imperfect tense
    Je prenais (I was taking OR I used to take)
    Tu vendais (you were selling OR you used to sell)
    Il attendait (he was waiting OR he used to wait)
    Elle disait (she was saying OR she used to say)
    On comprenait (one was understanding OR one used to understand)
    Nous apprenions (we were learning OR we used to learn)
    Vous buviez (you were drinking OR you used to drink)
    Ils écrivaient (they were writing OR they used to write)
    Elles lisaient (they were reading OR they used to read)
    Endings: was/were + ing (used to)
    ais
    ais
    ait
    ait
    ait
    ions
    iez
    aient
    aient

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