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The Imperfect Tense - French

Updated on April 24, 2013

What is the Imperfect Tense?

We use "L'Imparfait" for the following reasons:

  • When saying what something was like - C'était cool - It was cool
  • Talking about something that used to happen regularly - Je faisais du vélo - I used to cycle
  • Talking about something that went on for a long time - Je jouais au foot - I used to play football
  • Something you were doing when something else happened - Je lisais un livre quand ma mére a telephoné - I was reading a book when my mum called

The difference between the Passé Composé and L'imparfait is the the passé composé is a once off action in the past while l'imparfait was something continuous - used to, was, were etc.

These are the endings for the Imperfect tense:

Je ais

Tu ais

Il/Elle ait

Nous ions

Vous iez

Ils/Elles ient

When using "L'imparfait" you take the "nous" part of the verb in the present tense, eg. Jouons (Jouer - To Play). Then take off the "ons" - jou, and add the new endings.


When putting the imperfect into the negative you put the ne/n' before the verb and the pas after the verb

  • Je n'achetais pas la masion
  • Il ne portait pas les vetements
  • Vous n'appeliez pas Laura

NB: Use n' infront of a vowel!!


When putting the imperfect tense into question form reverse the order of the verb and the subject pronoun.

  • Achetais - tu la maison?
  • Portait - il les vetements?
  • Appeliez - vous Laura?

Irregular Verbs

This is a list of the most common irregular verbs and what the infinitive of them is:

  • aller: J'allais

  • avoir: J'avais

  • devoir: Je devais

  • être: J'étais

  • faire: Je faisais

  • pouvoir: Je pouvais

  • vouloir: Je voulais

Poll !!

What French Tense Do You Find The Hardest?

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