l’Imparfait

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ll start out with the uses of the imparfait. The imparfait is used to express habitual, repeated actions or to describe an emotional or physical state in the past. It can also be used to describe a situation interrupted by a precise action. Usually the time of the imparfait action or condition is vague or implied.

Here are some cues that would imply that the tense needed is l’imparfait.

a. certain word clues –
de temps en temps – from time to time
fréquemment – frequently
souvent – often
toujours – always
tous les jours – every day
tous les mois – every month
tous les semaines – every week
le matin, le soir, la nuit – in the morning, in the evening, at night (implies every morning, evening, night)
le lundi, le mardi … le dimanche – on Mondays, on Tuesdays … on Sundays (again implies every Monday, etc.)

b. states of being can be described in l’imparfait
location – Jean habitait Paris.
age – Elle avait 6 ans.
appearance – Sophie était belle.
physical condition – Nous étions fatigués.
emotional state of being – Il était triste.
attitudes – Tu avais envie de dormir.
desires – Il voulait rentrer chez lui.
time – il était dix heures du soir.
weather – il pleuvait

c. verbs that describe mental or emotional states of being in the past often use l’imparfait
aimer
avoir envie de
vouloir
croire
penser
désirer
préférer
savoir
pouvoir

Now for the conjugation of the l’imparfait. These steps apply for all verbs in the imparfait except être. The chart for être will be at the bottom of the page.
1. take the nous form of the verb
2. drop the ‘ons’
3. add the imparfait endings

je parlais nous parlions
tu parlais vous parliez
il parlait ils parlaient

je voulais nous voulions
tu voulais vous vouliez
il voulait ils voulaient

j’étais nous étions
tu étais vous étiez
il était ils étaient

;

* remember with ger verbs and cer verbs that you have to keep the ‘ge’ and the ‘ç’ in the nous form

nous mangeons, nous nageons – je mangeais, je nageais

nous commençons – je commençais

* last thing – for a few irregular impersonal verbs

il faut (it is necessary) changes to il fallait (it was necessary)

il pleut (it’s raining) changes to il pleuvait (it was raining)

il vaut (it’s worth) changes to il vallait (it was worth)

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