Updated: Sep 7, 2020
The imperfect tense is one of the tenses used to talk about the past.
When to use the imperfect tense:
-To describe what things were like.
Example: Il faisait beau. It was nice weather.
-To describe how people felt.
Example: Elle était contente. She was happy
-To talk about what used to happen or what you used to do.
Example: Je faisais de la natation tous les jours. I used to go swimming everyday.
-To say what was happening when something else took place.
Example: Je regardais la télé. I was watching TV.
Note that the second part of this sentence would be in the perfect tense.
How to structure the imperfect tense:
To structure the imperfect tense, you need to use the same stem of the verb as for the present tense and add the imperfect tense endings.
Step 1: take the "nous" form of the verb in the present tense.
we do = (nous) faisons.
Step 2: take off the -ons to get the stem.
Step 3: add the correct ending
il faisait = he did/ he used to do/ he was doing
ÊTRE is the only irregular verb in the imperfect tense. The stem for être is: ét-
Example: Quand j'étais jeune - When I was young
Below is the full conjugation of être in the imperfect tense:
Spelling changes with -ER verbs:
Just like in the present tense, there are some spelling irregularities in the imperfect tense, in particular with verbs ending in -cer (e.g. commencer) and in -ger (e.g. manger).
For verbs in -cer: For pronunciation purposes, the letter c become ç before an a or an o.
Je commençais toujours la journée avec une promenade dans le parc.
I always used to start the day with a walk in the park.
For verbs in -ger: For pronunciation purposes, the letter g become ge before an a or an o.
Tu mangeais beaucoup de pizzas.
You used to eat a lot of pizzas.