The “Imperfect” / L’imparfait

(source of the text)

 

Use

 

The imperfect is used to talk about acts or events which took place in the past during a long or an imprecise moment.

Most of the time, it corresponds to:

  • habits in the past

Ex.     Je marchais 10 km tous les jours

Chaque dimanche, je mangeais chez ma grand-mère

  • describe something in the past

Ex.    Elle était blonde et avait les yeux bleus.

Il portait un pull orange

 

Some words are useful to recognise an imperfect situation, like:

  • Avant

Ex.    Avant je ne parlais pas le français, mais maintenant je le comprends bien.

  • Quand

Ex.    Quand j’étais petit je courais partout, mais aujourd’hui je suis grand et je préfère marcher.

  • Pendant

Ex.    Pendant mes vacances d’été je faisais beaucoup de vélo, mais en ce moment je dois travailler au bureau.

  • Tous les jours

Ex.    Tous les jours, je regardais mes fleurs pousser, puis un jour elles se sont ouvertes.

 

Formation

The imperfect tense is generally translated into English with the “preterit”.

The imperfect stem is the same as the “présent” one (without the “présent” endings)

 

Good to know:

The imperfect (l’imparfait) is so-named after the “perfectum”, a latine tense which corresponds to the french “passé composé”. That’s the reason why the imperfect and the “passé composé” don’t have the same use (cf. “Le passé composé”).

 

The endings for the imperfect are: -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient

 

Graphical resources: If you need to make an /é/ or an /à/ you can copy it and paste it from here.

Choose a word to complete each sentence/ 5th question:  conjugate verbs in the imperfect tense from the infinitive.

Move the cursor over the “?” to get the infinitive form of the verb to conjugate in the imperfect tense or click on the “play” icon to hear the word to be written.

Conjugate the given verb in its infinitive form in the imperfect tense by looking at the word before.

Fill in the crossword puzzle by conjugating the given verb in its infinitive form to the imperfect tense according to the word that is before, you have to click on the line to see the clue.

 

The imperfect stem for “-er” is the “présent’s” stem

 

Visiter → visit- + endings: Je visitais / Tu visitais / Il visitait / Nous visitions / Vous visitiez / Ils visitaient

Acheter → achet- + endings : J’achetais / Tu achetais / Il achetait / Nous achetions / Vous achetiez / Ils achetaient

 

The imperfect stem for “-ir” is the “présent’s” form

 

The last letter of the first person of the “présent’s” form is duplicated to form the imperfect

 

Ex.    Finir → →Je finis → Je finis(s)ais

 

Finir → Finis(x) + endings: Je finis(s)ais / Tu finis(s)ais / Il finis(s)ait / Nous finis(s)ions / Vous finis(s)iez / Ils finis(s)aient

 

The first, second, third, and sixth forms have exactly the same pronunciation. The final consonants and the “-ent” are not pronounced in french.

 

Irregular imperfect stems

 

Some irregular verbs have irregular imperfect stems

 

Nevertheless, the imperfect ending are the same for all verbs: -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient

 

The imperfect stem for “être” is “ét-” and for “avoir” is “av-”

Être. “To be”

J’étais, I was       

Tu étais, You were       

Il était, He was   

Nous étions, We were   

Vous étiez, You were   

Ils étaient, They were   

Avoir. “To have”

J’avais, I had

Tu avais, You had

Il avait, He had

Nous avions, We had

Vous aviez, You had

Ils avaient, They had

 

Conjugate the given verb in its infinitive form by looking at the word before

Good tips:

“Aller” is a regular verb at the imperfect tense, so it is easy to conjugate.

Aller. “To go”

J’allais, I went

Tu allais, You went

Il allait, He went

Nous allions, We went

Ils allaient, They went

Here are common verbs that have irregular imperfect stems:

 

            Infinitive     Stem             Imperfect             translation
        faire

fais-

            Je faisais             I did
        tenir

ten-

            Je tenais             I held
        venir

ven-

            Je venais             I came

        voir

voy-

            Je voyais             I saw
        dire

dis-

            Je disais             I said
        paraître

paraiss-

            Je paraissais             I looked like
        conduire

conduis-

            Je conduisais             I drove
        prendre

pren-

            Je prenais             I took
        boire

buv-

            Je buvais             I drank
        manger

mange-

            Je mangeais             I ate
        écrire

écriv-

            J’écrivais             I wrote
        éteindre

éteign-

            J’éteignais             I switched off

 

Listen & repeat


Let’s practise!

 

Activities:

 

Write:

Graphical resources: If you need to make an /é/ or an /à/ you can copy it and paste it from here.

 

First quiz only / Click on the answer that contains the correct forms.

Only verbs that belong to known categories / Transform the verbs given in the present tense, in the first text, by conjugating them in the imperfect tense.

Choice the verbs and forms, click on the list that unfolds and choose the conjugated verb that corresponds to the word(s) that come before.

Known verbs / Transform the verbs given in the infinitive by conjugating them in the imperfect tense by looking at the word(s) before.

Answer the questions using the imperfect tense and the correct person.

 

Listen and write:

Listen and fill in the blanks using the imperfect tense.

MCQ / Open the questionnaire “An original party” in a second tab and give the right answer to each question by listening to the discussion / Read the correction after.

 

Write:

 

Production 1:
Tell the last dream you made and you remember. Highlight in red the verbs you conjugate at the imperfect and in green these you conjugate at the “Passé composé”.
Production 2:
Tell your last birthday party without using the “Passé composé”. To help you, you can use the words which are given at the beginning of the lesson (Avant, Quand, etc…).
Production 3:
How were you, when you were 15. Tell us. Highlight in red the verbs you conjugate at the imperfect and in green these you conjugate at the “Passé composé”.
Production 4:
Tell us about your first trip to France. What did you know about France? And what did you ignore? Underline in red the verbs you conjugate at the imperfect and in green these you conjugate at the “Passé composé”.

Good to know:

The imperfect and the “passé composé” don’t have neither the same use, nor the same forms. Here is a comparison table.

Aller:

Passé composé:

Je suis allé

Tu es allé

Il est allé

Nous sommes allés

Vous êtes allés

Ils sont allés

Imparfait:

J’allais

Tu allais

Il allait

Nous allions

Vous alliez

Ils allai(en)t

Uses:

 

Passé composé:               

   

  • completed actions in the past

Ex.    Hier après-midi, je suis allé faire du vélo

Ce matin mon réveil n’a pas sonné

  • successive actions in the past

Ex.    Ensuite, je suis rentré chez moi, j’ai bu un verre d’eau et j’ai pris une douche.

Quand je me suis levé ce matin, j’ai pris mon petit déjeuner parce que j’avais faim.

 

Imparfait:

 

  • habits in the past

Ex.     Je marchais 10 km tous les jours

Chaque dimanche, je mangeais chez ma grand-mère

  • describe something in the past

Ex.    Elle était blonde et avait les yeux bleus.

Il portait un pull orange

 

Activities:

 

Move the cursor over the “?” to get the infinitive form of the verb to be conjugated in the imperfect tense or click on the “play” icon to hear the word to write.

Click on the “play” icon to hear the word to be written.

Move the cursor over the “?” to get the infinitive form of the verb to be conjugated in the imperfect tense or click on the “play” icon to hear the form to choose.