1. Imparfait - Usage
  2. Forming the Imparfait
  3. Imparfait or Passé Composé?

Imparfait - Usage

Rule 1: The imperfect tense, l’imparfait, is used to:

- describe something in the past.



Notre maison était spacieuse.

Our house was spacious.

- describe repeated or common actions in the past.



Elle buvait souvent du café.

She often drank coffee.

- describe a situation in the past.



Il n’y avait pas de voiture à cette époque.

There were no cars at that time.

Forming the Imparfait

Rule 2: To conjugate a verb in the imparfait, you use the stem of the first person plural present ("nous") and add the endings -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient appropriate to the person.

  • Finir (to finish) -> nous finissons -> je finissais
  • Manger (to eat) -> nous mangeons -> tu mangeais
  • Prendre (to take) -> nous prenons -> il prenait
  • Dormir (to sleep) -> nous dormons -> nous dormions
  • Faire (to do) -> nous faisons -> vous faisiez
  • Vouloir (to want) -> nous voulons -> ils voulaient

Exception: This is true for all verbs except for être, which has an irregular stem. The stem ét- is then used with the regular endings.

j' étais
tu étais
il, elle, on était
nous étions
vous étiez
ils, elles étaient

Imparfait or Passé Composé?

Rule 3: It can be challenging to distinguish between the imparfait and passé composé when you're just starting to learn French.

To avoid many rules at the beginning, it's best to learn that the passé composé often corresponds to the English simple past when we talk about completed, sequential, or one-time actions that took place in the past.

On the other hand, the imparfait often corresponds to the past continuous tense, as well as the structures "used to" and "would."

Rule 4: Imparfait and passé composé can be used in the same sentence. In this case, they express concurrent events. For example, here, imparfait is used to describe the action that is already ongoing, while passé composé is used to describe the main or a one-time action:



Je cuisinais quand le telephone a sonné.

I was cooking when the telephone rang.

Il faisait beau donc je suis sorti.

It was sunny so I went out.



Quand j'_ petit, j'_ faire du vélo.


correct answers.