L’imparfait (The Imperfect Tense)

French Tutorial

L'imparfait (The Imperfect Tense)


Here are the steps to forming the Imperfect tense in French and some of its uses.

Sample Problem

Example 1: être
J’étais jeune quand je suis allée en France pour la premiére fois.

Example 2: regarder- Nous regardons
Je regardais la télévision beaucoup quand j’étais plus jeune.


To form the imperfect tense (l’imparfait), you take the “Nous form” of the verb and add the imparfait ending that corresponds with the subject of the sentence (l’imparfait endings are -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, and -aient)(Example 2). Some verbs like être are irregular and use a different beginning in the formation of the tense (Example 1- être: ét-).

L’imparfait is used to describe ongoing events or habits that happened in the past such as: 1. a (former) state of being, 2. an ongoing activity that has no clear end, and 3. a habitual or repeated action that happened often in the past. In the first example, the speaker is describing a state of being from his or her youth. In this case, the state of being is the speaker’s youth which has no clear ending and describes the event in which he or she went to France. In the second example, the speaker is describing a habit they had when they were younger which requires the use of the imparfait. In this case, the habit described is watching a lot of television when the speaker was younger.

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