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CarameliciousMonday 27th of June 2005 02:43:31 AM
Lesson 8 - Unit 8 – L’Imparfait

L’imparfait tense is used to describe an ongoing condition or a repeated or incomplete action in the past. This tense is often confused with passé composé, so we will learn how to use this tense and how to tell the difference between l’imparfait and le passé composé. In the book that I am using this tense is taught in different sections so that is the way I will present it. There will be lessons as we go along that will add on, I will reply in this post to create the next lesson.

L’Imparfait Leçon A

Forming the regular l’imparfait.

It is formed by adding the imperfect endings to the present tense nous form. The imperfect endings are as followed:

Je – ais
Tu – ais
Il/Elle/On – ait
Nous – ions
Vous – iez
Ils/Elles – aient


Je parlais
Tu parlais
Il/Elle/On parlait
Nous parlions
Ils/Elles parlaient

Je finissais
Tu finissais
Il/Elle/On finissait
Nous finissions
Vous finissiez
Ils/Elles finissaient

Je rendais
Tu rendais
Il/Elle/On rendait
Nous rendions
Vous rendiez
Ils/Elles rendaient

A Page on L’imperfait from Real French.Net ( There is not any formatting, just copy and paste)

1 Formation of the imperfect
Take the nous form of the present tense, remove -ons and add the endings -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient.

nous aimons → j'aimais, nous aimions
nous finissons → je finissais, nous finissions
nous vendons → je vendais, nous vendions

The only exception to this rule is être which has a completely different stem j'étais, tu étais etc.

nous sommes → j'étais, nous étions

2 Use of the imperfect
Just as perfect tenses in French are used to express completed actions, the imperfect tense is used to express an action or state viewed as not completed. The imperfect is used as follows:

A cette époque-là, Paul travaillait à Paris

At that time Paul was working in Paris

2.1 Describing state of affairs
Mainly with être, for describing a state of affairs in the past:

Lorsqu'il était célibataire il était très dépensier

When he was single he was very extravagant

Il faisait noir et les routes étaient dangereuses

It was dark and the roads were dangerous

2.2 Describing on-going activity
For describing an on-going activity in the past. Here English would often use was / were doing:

A cette époque-là, Paul travaillait à Paris

At that time Paul was working in Paris

2.3 Describing habitual action
For describing a habitual action in the past. Here the equivalent verb in English is or can be introduced by used to or would. Be careful not to use the conditional here:

Quand j'habitais à Paris, j'allais souvent au théâtre

When I lived in Paris, I would often go to the theatre

2.4 After si

In conditional sentences using si:

Si j'avais plus de temps, j'irais à la soirée

If I had more time, I would go to the party

Il s'adresse aux gens comme s'ils étaient des enfants

He talks to people as if they were children

2.5 Creating sense of politeness

The imperfect can also be used to create a sense of politeness:

Je voulais vous dire que je ne serais pas au bureau lundi

I wanted to tell you that I won't be in the office on Monday

CarameliciousMonday 27th of June 2005 02:43:57 AM
Part B -
Part [color=red]B[/color] – Uses of the Imperfect Tense
[color=purple]The Uses of the imperfect tense.

o The Imperfect tense focuses on past actions or conditions as processes rather than as completed events. It emphasizes the action or the condition itself rather than its beginning or end. One of the uses of the imperfect is to express repeated or ongoing actions in the past.

o Qu’est-ce tu faisais quand tu habitais à Cannes? – What did you use to do when you lived in Cannes?
o J’allays tous les jours à la plage. – I would go to the beach every day.
o Est-ce que tu avais des cours l’après-midi? - Did you use to have classes in the afternoon?
o Non, j’étais à la faculté le matin. L’après-midi j’allays au travail. – No, I used to be at the university in the morning. In the afternoon I used to go to work.

o The Imperfect is also used to describe people or places in the past.

o Mes amis étaient tous diligents. Ils étudiaient sérieusement et s’intéressant à leur travail. Mais ils savaient s’amuser aussi. Ils étaient tous très gentils et les professeures du lycée les trouvaient sympathiques et intelligents.

o [color=purple] My friends were all diligent. They studied seriously and took an interes in their work. But the knew how to have a good time too. They were all very nice and the high school teachers found them pleasant and intelligent.

CarameliciousMonday 27th of June 2005 02:44:46 AM
Part C - Recognizing the Difference between L'imparfait and Passé Composé -
Leçon [color=green]C[/color]
Recognizing the difference between L’imparfait and the Passé Composé

[color=red]The passé composé, in contrast to the imperfect, expresses specific actions and events that were started and then completed at a specific time in the past.[/color]

J’ai pris le petite déjuner, j’aim is mon manteau et je suis sorti
I had breakfast, put on on my coat, and left the house.

The imperfect and the passé composé may appear in the same sentence. The imperfect provides the background for the even stated in the passé composé. In such instances, the imperfect may describe time, weather, or an action that was going when another even happened.

Il était 7 heures et demie quand elle est rentrée
It was 7:30 when she returned home

Quand on est sortis du restaurant, il pleuvait.
When we left the restaurant it was raining.

Je lisais quand a frappé à la porte.
I was reading when Jacques knocked at the door.

My point of view:

As you can see where the words are bolded and underlined they are in the imperfect tense and where they are just bolded they are in the passé composé tense. In the passé composé you can tell that the event stopped and started, in the imperfect tense you cannot. “I was reading” as opposed to “I read” (read in the past tense of course I red lol) in the last sentence, you cannot tell that the person “I” stopped reading.

I believe this is what the imperfect implies, that something started, YOU as a human know that it had to stop at a certain time or period, but saying it in words you don’t know, when it stopped, how it stopped, etc. Therefore it is kind of an “incomplete” action in the past, you can tell it started, but you can’t definitely tell when it stopped. As opposed to “Quand on est sortis… When we left” and leaving has to be started and completed

In the imperfect in French translated to English is probably when we would use the words were or was.

I was eating.
We were running.
He was reading.
She was having fun with her friend at the party.
No one was listening to the teacher.