Develop expertise in conjugating French Imperfect Indicative



This French tense (referred to simply as imperfect) is a past tense verb indicating ongoing action.

It is different to the compound past tense, which indicates a brief, finished action.

Examples of ongoing past tense action include thinking, being, and habitual doing.

Chaque matin, nous buvions du lait.
Every morning, we drank milk (were drinking milk, did drink milk).

It can also indicate action interrupted :
I was waiting for my friend when my father called.
J’attendais mon ami quand mon père m’a appelé.

I was waiting is the imperfect indicative, interrupted by called in the compound past tense (passé composé).

The French Imperfect Indicative is conjugated by using the nous form of the present tense, removing the –ons ending, and adding the French Imperfect Indicative endings.

French Imperfect Indicative Verbs of the first group:

-ER Verbs:

e.g. porter (which means to wear in French):

je portais
tu portais
il/elle portait
nous portions
vous portiez
ils/elles portaient

Je portais un maillot de bains quand il a commencé a neiger.
I was wearing my swimsuit when it began to snow.

Quand il était jeune il fumait deux paquets de cigarettes par jour
When he was young he used to smoke two packets of cigarettes per day.

Malgré une coupure de courant ils continuaient à jouer.
Despite a power-cut they kept on playing.

French Imperfect Indicative Verbs of the second group:

-IR verbs with present participle ending in –issant

E.g. finir (to finish)

je finissais
tu finissais
il/elle finissait
nous finissions
vous finissiez
ils/elles finissaient

Elle finissait de discuter quand l’enseignant est entré.
She was ending her discussion when the teacher entered.

Nous réussissions à réunir tous les anciens élèves de l’école chaque année.
We succeeded in gathering all the former students of the school each year.

Ils remplissaient toutes les conditions necessaires à cette mission mais ils ont échoué.
They fulfilled all the requirements necessary for this mission but they failed.

French Imperfect Indicative Verbs of the third group:

-RE Verbs and other -IR verbs

E.g. courir (to run)

je courais
tu courais
il/elle courait
nous courions
vous couriez
ils/elles couraient

Vous couriez quand vous avez trébuché.
You were running when you tripped.

Tu sentais bien qu’elle ne le ferait pas même si elle te le promettait.
You felt OK that she was not going to do this even if she promised it to you.

Tu conduisais mieux avant ton séjour de six mois en Italie.
You were used to driving better before your six-month journey in Italy.

Now you know everything on the French Imperfect Indicative, test your abilities in French grammar.
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French imperfect indicative
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