L'indicatif de l'imparfait / Imperfect Indicative

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Imperfect indicative tense is used to express a repeated action in the past or an interrupted action in the past. Examples in English:

  • I used to play soccer [repeated]
  • I was sleeping when it happened. [interrupted; referring to first verb]
All you do to form it is take the "nous" form of the verb in the present indicative (see verb conjugations) and add the following endings (for être, the only irregular verb in the imperfect, use ét- as the stem)
  • je: -ais
  • tu: -ais
  • il/elle/on: -ait
  • nous: -ions
  • vous: -iez
  • ils/elles: -aient
Here's how it can be translated (sometimes it depends on context):
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they were [verb]ing
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they used to [verb]
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they [verb]ed
There are a few others, but they are very rare. These two are the most common, especially the first one. Do not confuse the last one with the passé composé. Although they are sometimes translated the same into English, they mean two different things.

Here is an example of a verb conjugated in the imperfect:

finir (to finish)
je finissais=I was finishing
tu finissais=you were finishing
il/elle/on finissait=he/she/one was finishing
nous finissions=we were finishing
vous finissiez=you were finishing
ils/elles finissaient=they were finishing

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