Conjugate regular verbs in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

The Imperfect tense (Imparfait) is very easy to conjugate in French as MOST verbs follow the same pattern of conjugation (EXCEPT for être - Conjugate être in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense))

Look at these examples of verbs in Imparfait:

Je faisais un château de sable.
I was making a sandcastle.

Tu chantais à l'école?
Were you singing at school?

Elle avait un chien.
She had a dog.

Nous parlions français ensemble.
We used to speak French together.

Vous choisissiez votre maison.
You were choosing your house.

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

 

How to form the Imparfait

1. Take the nous form of the verb in Présent indicatif

2. Drop the -ons ending 

3. Add the following endings

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

Examples : 

- parler : nous parlons (we are talking) -> je parlais

- finir : nous finissons (we are finishing) -> je finissais

- faire : nous faisons (we are doing) -> je faisais

- prendre : nous prenons (we are taking) -> je prenais

 

When to use the French Imperfect Tense (Imparfait)

Note that Imparfait is used in a variety of ways where we use very different tenses in English!

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





avoir


Elle avait un chien.
She had a dog.


chanter


Tu chantais à l'école?
Were you singing at school?


choisir


Vous choisissiez votre maison.
You were choosing your house.


faire


Je faisais un château de sable.
I was making a sandcastle.


Nous faisions du sport.
We used to do sport.


finir


Il finissait son repas.
He was finishing his meal.


parler


Nous parlions français ensemble.
We used to speak French together.


Q&A Forum 6 questions, 15 answers

KenA2Kwiziq community member

Imperfect vs plu perfect

In several of your test question you have the verb of (had)plus the verb which understood to be plu perfect and not imparfait. Now please explain how you are going to differentiate?


Asked 4 weeks ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Can you post a concrete example, please?

Imperfect vs plu perfect

In several of your test question you have the verb of (had)plus the verb which understood to be plu perfect and not imparfait. Now please explain how you are going to differentiate?


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AndreaA2Kwiziq community member

Suggestion re : example (Substitute a different one with ils..)

"Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là."

I was confused initially as this lesson was to be devoted to regular verbs.  The conjugation of être is given in a later lesson an includes the same example copied above. To prevent confusion,  I suggest this particular example be removed from this lesson and also the video clip on être as there is another lesson devoted to this subject.

Asked 3 months ago

Suggestion re : example (Substitute a different one with ils..)

"Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là."

I was confused initially as this lesson was to be devoted to regular verbs.  The conjugation of être is given in a later lesson an includes the same example copied above. To prevent confusion,  I suggest this particular example be removed from this lesson and also the video clip on être as there is another lesson devoted to this subject.

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DaniloA2Kwiziq community member

I'm confused by the block of examples immediately following the "How to form the Imparfait" section above....

These are the examples given:

- parler : nous parlons (we are talking) -> je parlais

- finir : nous finissons (we are finishing) -> je finissais

- faire : nous faisons (we are doing) -> je faisais

- prendre : nous prenons (we are taking) -> je prenais

All the verbs have the same ending despite the subject. Perhaps I'm missing something

Asked 4 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

I guess the point is that the imperfect is formed using the stem of the verb in the first person plural, present tense. Then the imperfect is formed appending the approriate imperfect ending to that stem. In the examples, they used only the first person singular (je) ending. The others work the same way, though:

Nous parlons. --> drop the -ons to get the stem --> parl --> add appropriate imperfect ending:

je parlais, tu parlais, il/elle/on parlait, nous parlions, vous parliez, ils/elles parlaient.

 

I'm confused by the block of examples immediately following the "How to form the Imparfait" section above....

These are the examples given:

- parler : nous parlons (we are talking) -> je parlais

- finir : nous finissons (we are finishing) -> je finissais

- faire : nous faisons (we are doing) -> je faisais

- prendre : nous prenons (we are taking) -> je prenais

All the verbs have the same ending despite the subject. Perhaps I'm missing something

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DonovanB2Kwiziq community member

Could you highlight one line a bit more? "Present nous form" in l'imparfait... I keep forgetting that part.....

I have recently become addicted to this site, and I'm filling in all of the gaps in my self learning. One thing has tripped me up more than once... Using the "present nous form" in l'imparfait.  I know it's already in bold font, but could you highlight that line in color with stars and big arrows around it??   :P  Thanks for a GREAT site!
Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Donovan !

I agree there's never too much colour in a grammar lesson :)

I hope the updated version will work for you!

Bonne journée !

DonovanB2Kwiziq community member
Wow! That was fast!  Awesome, thanks. :)

Could you highlight one line a bit more? "Present nous form" in l'imparfait... I keep forgetting that part.....

I have recently become addicted to this site, and I'm filling in all of the gaps in my self learning. One thing has tripped me up more than once... Using the "present nous form" in l'imparfait.  I know it's already in bold font, but could you highlight that line in color with stars and big arrows around it??   :P  Thanks for a GREAT site!

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AnnaA2Kwiziq community member

“We we’re driving...” Nous conduisions or Nous étions conduire? Merci!

Were not we’re 
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

It is -

Nous conduisions .

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Nous étions -- We were.

Nous conduisons. -- We drive / we are driving. 

Nous conduisions. -- We were driving / we used to drive. 

Nous avions conduit -- We had driven / we had been driving. 

Nous avons conduit. -- We drove. 

Grammatically, you never use the infinitive (conduire) after an auxiliary verb (être) in a compound tense. 

Also, the English continuous form (-ing form) does not have a one-to-one correspondence in French. 

-- Chris. 

AnnaA2Kwiziq community member
Merci, Cécile. Why not nous étions conduire?  This is a new level for me. I’ve re-read the related lessons but I’m still missing it. I feel like it’s staring me in the face but I’m not seeing it. Thanks in advance for helping me see my error. 
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Nous étions conduire doesn't mean anything. It is a literal translation from English which simply has nomparallel in French. 

-- Chris. 

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Nous étions conduire doesn't mean anything. It is a literal translation from English which simply has nomparallel in French. 

-- Chris. 

AnnaA2Kwiziq community member

Mais no! :-) 

if it means nothing, then why does it show up in Conjugate être in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

Merci

AnnaA2Kwiziq community member
By “it” I mean nous étions.  Why, grammatically, is it incorrect to use it in “ we were driving”? Isn’t one use of l’imparfait yo express continuing action in the past?
AnnaA2Kwiziq community member
Thank you SO much.  That’s what I needed!
AnnaA2Kwiziq community member
And also I just realized I was mistaken in using être as the auxiliary.  I was thinking of driving as a coming/going verb. Thank you again. 

“We we’re driving...” Nous conduisions or Nous étions conduire? Merci!

Were not we’re 

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LeaB1Kwiziq community member

the verb sourire has an irregular spelling in l'imparfait. Can you explicate this? Thank you, Lea

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Lea !

The verb "sourire" does follow the rule of that lesson:
the Présent form for "nous" is: nous sourions

So if we follow the rule, the stem for l'Imparfait will be  souri-
E.g. je souriais, tu souriais, il souriait, nous souriions, vous souriiez, ils souriaient

I hope that's helpful!

À bientôt !

William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Except for etre, faire and dire. In the Michel Thomas Series he said: Except for être (vous êtes) , faire (vous faites) and dire (vous dites), the "sound" of the first person singular (imperfect) always follows the "sound" of the 2nd person plural of the present tense. vous avez (j'avais), vous parlez (je parlais), vous devez (je devais), vous voulez (je voulais) etc. Go to online conjugator @ http://conjugator.reverso.net/conjugation-french-verb-pouvoir.html and check for yourself.

the verb sourire has an irregular spelling in l'imparfait. Can you explicate this? Thank you, Lea

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