Essayer French Imperfect Stems

The Imperfect Tense-

Imperfect Tense Instruction-

In this module we will study another past tense, the Imparfait (the Imperfect), which is easy to learn because there is only one irregular verb (être).

How to Conjugate Verbs in the Imparfait:

  1. The stem consists of the first-person plural (nous) form of the present tense without the o n s ending.
  2. Add the following endings to the stem: a i s, a i s, a i t, i o n s, i e z, a i e n t.All of the singular and the third-person plural endings are pronounced the same way.

Listen carefully to your screen reader pronounce the verb parler conjugated in the Imparfait.

Parler-English Translation-
Je parlais-I used to speak, was speaking-
Tu parlais-You -- familiar-- used to speak, were speaking-
Il, elle, on parlait-He, she, one used to speak, was speaking-
Nous parlions-We used to speak, were speaking-
Vous parliez-You used to speak, were speaking-
Ils, elles parlaient-They used to speak, were speaking-

Following are a few more examples.

Subject Pronoun-Etudier-Choisir-Boire-Prendre-
j(e)-étudiais-choisissais-buvais-prenais-
tu-étudiais-choisissais-buvais-prenais-
il, elle, on-étudiait-choisissait-buvait-prenait-
nous-étudiions-choisissions-buvions-prenions-
vous-étudiiez-choisissiez-buviez-preniez-
ils, elles-étudiaient-choisissaient-buvaient-prenaient
  1. Did you notice the two i's in the nous and vous forms of étudier? This happens in all verbs whose infinitive ends in i e r.
  2. The only irregular verb in the Imparfait is être.
Etre-English Translation-
J'étais-I was-
Tu étais-You -- familiar-- were-
Il, elle, on était-He, she, one was-
Nous étions-We were-
Vous étiez-You were-
Ils, elles étaient-They were-
  1. When conjugating verbs whose infinitive ends in g e r, such as manger and voyager, place an e before all endings except the first and second-person plural: je mangeais, tu voyageais, but vous mangiez. This is done to preserve the soft g sound.
  2. When conjugating verbs whose infinitive ends in c e r, such as commencer and placer, place a cedilla under the c before all endings except the first and second-person plural: je commençais, tu plaçais, butvous commenciez. This is done to preserve the soft c sound.

When is the Imparfait used?

  1. The imparfait describes actions that occurred habitually in the past. It tells what you used to do or would do repeatedly. Here are a couple of examples:
Verb in the imparfait-English Translation-
J'allais au cinéma tous les samedis.-I used to go to the movies on Saturdays.-
Pierre rentrait à la maison vers cinq heures.-Pierre used to return home around 5 o'clock.-

Compare these examples with the following which are very similar except that the verbs are in the passé composé.

Verb in the passé composé-English Translation-
Je suis allé au cinéma samedi.-I went to the movies on Saturday.-
Pierre est rentré à la maison vers cinq heures.-Pierre returned home around 5 o'clock.-

In the latter sentences in which the verbs are in the passé composé, the actions were performed once, whereas in the examples in which the verbs are in the imparfait, the actions took place repeatedly in the past.

  1. Another use of the imparfait is to describe a state of being or an action that existed at some time in the past without indicating a specific beginning or end. Here are a few examples:
Verb in the imparfait-English Translation-
Elle était triste.-She was sad.-
Ils se promenaient à la campagne.-They used to walk in the country.-
Quand j'étais jeune, j'habitais à Montréal.-When I was young, I used to live in Montreal.-
  1. The Imparfaitis also used to describe two simultaneous past actions:Il parlait au téléphone pendant que je faisais la cuisine (He was talking on the telephone whileI was cooking.).




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