Understanding the l'imparfait de l'indicatif : Formation and implementation

L'imparfait or the imperfect tense is used to express events or actions that took place (sometimes repeatedly) in the past. It is used to refer to the present tense and sometimes to the future. The imperfect tense is the narrative tense frequently used in written language. Our simple, clear explanations and numerous examples will help you to master the use of the imperfect tense and the rules for its formation.

Usage of the l'imparfait de l'indicatif or the imperfect tense of indicative

The imperfect tense of the indicative is used in the following cases:

  • A fact/action that has already taken place at the time we are speaking but is likely to happen again. Example : Quand j'étais au lycée, j'étais très sociable.(When I was at school, I was very sociable.)
  • To describe a scene or landscape.. Example : Les vagues s'échouaient lentement sur la plage pendant que nous bronzions. (The waves slowly washed up on the beach while we were sunbathing.)

Formation of the l'imparfait de l'indicatif in French

Pour former l'imparfait de l'indicatif, vous devez mémoriser les terminaisons des verbes conjugués. Celles-ci ne changent pas d'un verbe à un autre.

Personal pronounsEndings1st group2nd group3rd group





NB : There are some verbs which are written with several successive "i" , or with a "y" followed by an "i" when they are conjugated in the imperfect in the first and second person plural Example : Nous criions, vous criiez, nous priions, vous priiez (We were screaming, you were screaming, we were praying, you were praying)

he auxiliaries to be and to have are part of the verbs of the third group, but they have a particular conjugation which must be mastered since they make it possible to construct the more than perfect of the indicative of all the other verbs.

être (be)avoir (to have)

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