Conjugate être in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

In L'Imparfait, almost all the verbs follow the same pattern of conjugation. See Conjugate regular verbs in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense).

However (as usual!), the verb être (to be) is slightly irregular.

Have a look:

J'étais déjà mariée quand j'avais 20 ans.
I was already married when I was 20.

Tu étais rayonnante pendant ta grossesse.
You were beaming during your pregnancy.

C'était le plus beau jour de ma vie.
It was the most beautiful day of my life.

Nous étions en vacances lorsqu'ils nous ont cambriolés.
We were on holidays when they robbed us.

Vous étiez déjà amoureux à cette époque ?
Were you already in love at that time?

Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là.
They were best friends that year.

Note that the irregular stem ét- (and NOT êt-) is followed by the regular Imparfait endings: 

je / j' -ais
tu -ais
il/elle/on -ait
nous -ions
vous -iez
ils/elles -aient

 

Notice that L'imparfait is used in a variety of ways where we use very different tenses in English!

When to use the French Imperfect Tense (L'Imparfait)

Expressing continuing action in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense) 

Expressing habits or repeated actions in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense) 

Describing and expressing opinions in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nous étions en vacances lorsqu'ils nous ont cambriolés.
We were on holidays when they robbed us.


C'était le plus beau jour de ma vie.
It was the most beautiful day of my life.


Tu étais rayonnante pendant ta grossesse.
You were beaming during your pregnancy.


Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là.
They were best friends that year.


J'étais déjà mariée quand j'avais 20 ans.
I was already married when I was 20.


Vous étiez déjà amoureux à cette époque ?
Were you already in love at that time?


Q&A

carole

Kwiziq community member

15 September 2018

1 reply

Translation question

In a test the sentence "Nous étions toujours ensemble à cette époque." was translated as

We were still together at that time.  Does "toujours" mean "still?"  Or should the translation be We were always together at that time.  ?

Merci.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

16 September 2018

16/09/18

Toujours can be "still" or "always".


Here is a useful lesson on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7arUdbwovo

Karen

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2018

1 reply

Do adjectives still agree when you use 'c'etait'?

For example. If I were to say "Nous avons eu une tempete. C'etait effrayante." Would that be correct (apart from the missing accent on tempete which I can't get to work in this box!)

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 July 2018

17/07/18

Hi Karen,


No, in the case of c'est (or c'était) you will always use the masculine form of the adjective  and this is a common error.


So, C'était effrayant! C'était petit.....


Hope this helps!

dave

Kwiziq community member

20 February 2018

3 replies

best/better?

dave

Kwiziq community member

20 February 2018

20/02/18

Sorry not sure where my question went.....Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là. Is this not "They were better friends that year."?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

21 February 2018

21/02/18

Hi Dave,


"Meilleurs amis" is a pretty fixed phrase meaning "best friends".


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

dave

Kwiziq community member

22 February 2018

22/02/18

Ah okay, thanks Chris. :)

Rene

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017

2 replies

Ces leçons

sont vraiment utiles ! Ici je peux réviser et aussi apprendre de nouvelles choses. C'est magnifique ! Merci à tous !

Ron

Kwiziq community member

2 November 2017

2/11/17

Bonsoir Rene,
I am unable to answer for the Team as I am but a subscriber, user of Kwiziq myself, mais votre sentiment est très gentil and je suis tout d'accord.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

19 March 2018

19/03/18

Merci pour ces gentils mots,  Rene, de la part de toute l'équipe.

Sherry

Kwiziq community member

5 January 2017

2 replies

"J'étais mariée quand j'avais 20 ans."

"I was married when I was 20." Does that mean that during my 20s I was married and not that I got married when I was 20? Thanks!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 January 2017

6/01/17

Bonjour Sherry !

It does mean "I was married", but I agree it's a bit of a confusing sentence.
I've decided to add already to make it clearer:
"J'étais déjà mariée quand j'avais 20 ans." (I was already married when I was 20.)

Bonne Année !

Sherry

Kwiziq community member

6 January 2017

6/01/17

Merci, Aurélie!

Doraida

Kwiziq community member

21 August 2016

2 replies

Dans la première question pourquoi ne peut être "Quand je suis petit", pourquoi le femenine "petite"

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

23 August 2016

23/08/16

Bonjour Doraida,

I looked through this lesson and kwiz, but I don't see "petite" anywhere. Do you remember which lesson you saw this on?

Doraida

Kwiziq community member

24 August 2016

24/08/16

I'll try to find the page again and send it to you.
I'll be right with you...