Imparfait / Imperfect Tense in French

Imparfait tense in French. How to build it, how to use it. Imperfect tense.

French Present Tense Irregular Verbs

Watch the video for the pronunciation.

A tense expressing a length or a repeated action in the past which beginning and end are not known.

  • The Imparfait translates the English expressions:
  • Used to: when I was young I used to visit my grandmother (duration then a repeated action)
  • Was verb+ing: I was doing (duration)
  • I went to the restaurant every sunday: J’allais au restaurant tous les dimanches (repeated action)
  • He had just come: il venait d’arriver (expression)
  • A wish or a condition, after the word “if”: If I had a car: si j’avais une voiture
  • Time: It was midnight: il était minuit / when I was young: quand j’étais jeune
  • How about and what about: What about going to the cinema: et si nous allions au cinema.

 How to form the Imparfait.

Any verb at the present tense, use the “we form”, you drop the end of the verb, keep the first part and add the imperfect ending:

To dance: danser (1st group)
The we form is “we dance”: nous dansons

Rule: You drop the end “ons”
You keep the first part “dans”
and add the imperfect ending:

Je dans-ais
Tu dans-ais
Il, elle, on dans-ait
Nous dans-ions
Vous dans-iez
Ils, elles dans-aient

To finish : finir
The we form at the present tense is ” we finish ” : nous finissons

You drop the end “ons” and keep the firt part “finiss”
You add the imperfect ending:

Je finissais
Tu finissais
Il, elle, on finissait
Nous finissions
Vous finissiez
Ils, elles finissaient

 Pay attention to verbs like: Étudier
To study : étudier
Tu étudiais
Il, elle, on étudiait
Nous étudiions
Vous étudiiez
Ils, elles étudiaient  Look! Some irregular verbs :
To be : être
Tu étais
Il, elle, on était
Nous étions
Vous étiez
Ils, elles étaient
To eat : manger
Je mangeais
Tu mangeais
Il, elle, on mangeait
Nous mangions
Vous mangiez
Ils, elles mangeaient

The ” e ” is for the pronunciation because the sound ” ga ” in French is like ” GArage “, but here it is soft like the end of ” garaGE ”

Exercise Imperfect Tense:

Graphic: Imparfait in French

Pascal Dherve

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Pascal Dherve

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